After PM's Kashmir Show, Mush Has His Say
17 November 2004
The Times of India
Islamabad: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf met anti-India Kashmiri leaders to discuss his new proposals on solving the half-century dispute with India and told them to be flexible, state media reported Thursday. 'Flexibility and sincerity cannot be one-sided, but must be displayed bilaterally and mutually if we are to move forward,' Musharraf told Kashmiri leaders late Wednesday, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan. 'There is a need for demonstration of flexibility by all sides, Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir.' The meeting was Musharraf's first with Kashmiri leaders since he floated a raft of proposals late October including demilitarisation, the carve-up of Kashmir, and placement of sections under joint mandate or UN control. The proposals were the most radical ever offered by a Pakistani leader in the 54-year fight over who should rule the region. Islamabad, insisting it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the rebels, has traditionally demanded a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to choose rule by India or Pakistan. But Musharraf has been rolling back that demand and in his October proposals the plebiscite did not rate a mention. However he stressed in Wednesday's talks with leaders from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and officials from Pakistani-ruled Kashmir that the government retained its 'principled position' of ensuring Kashmiris accept the solution. Musharraf's consultation with the Kashmiri leaders fell just hours after India began a historic pullout of troops from its portion of Kashmir, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid his first to summer capital Srinagar since taking office in May. Singh, whose arrival was preceded by a gunfight between militants and troops at the venue where he was to speak, said more troop reductions would follow if the violence ceased.