EU Turns Sweetly Reasonable On J&K
8 November 2004
The Times of India
The Hague: European Union's prickliness on Kashmir seems to have disappeared. The same EU which two years ago sought to introduce critical comments on India's handling of Kashmir, prompting the then PM A B Vajpayee to almost threaten a walkout, was sweet reasonableness on Monday about New Delhi's handling of the situation. At a joint press conference addressed by PM Manmohan Singh and EU leaders, Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende, who is also president of the European Council, said EU has welcomed and encouraged India's attempt to involve all stakeholders in the dialogue on Kashmir. He said there was no difference of perception between the two sides. It seems India has broken new ground with EU not only on Kashmir, but also on outsourcing and nuclear energy. EU and India have had differences on all three, and these have clearly narrowed. Asked by a foreign journalist if India proposed to demilitarise Kashmir, Singh was sharp in his reply: 'J&K is an integral part of India. So, the presence of security forces there is not a matter of discussion with foreign agencies'. Singh dismissed Gen Pervez Musharraf's proposal on de-militarising parts of Kashmir as a non-proposal. If a formal proposal came from Islamabad, New Delhi would think about it. He added that India was open so long as Islamabad adhered to the January agreement between Vajpayee and Musharraf that no Pak territory would be used to foster or harbour terrorists.