November 2004 News

India Opposes Religion Based Kashmir Solution

24 November 2004
The Nation

Islamabad: While Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz made it clear to Manmohan Singh that without substantive talks to resolve the core issue of Kashmir there can neither be any guarantee of peace and friendly relations with India nor can CBMs work, the Indian prime minister poured cold water on the rising expectations that India is willing to discuss the Kashmir issue in a way which could satisfy the aspirations of the Kashmiri people and meet Pakistan's expectations. Highly-placed diplomatic sources disclosed that Manmohan Singh categorically told the Pakistani delegation today that there was some misunderstanding resulting from his meeting with President General Pervez Musharraf in New York on the sidelines of UN General Assembly earlier this year. He reiterated the oft-repeated Indian position that India is willing to discuss the Kashmir issue but without redrawing of the boundaries nor any possible solution based on religion. India cites that sovereignty for the Kashmiri people was not acceptable. Manmohan Singh reportedly informed Shaukat Aziz that India was willing to discuss any proposal if presented by Pakistan. However, he did not have any original ideas of his own to break the impasse on Kashmir. The Pakistani delegation was not carrying any formal proposals and Mr Aziz clarified that the formula proposed by General Musharraf, announced at a recent iftar-dinner, was to 'initiate debate within Pakistan'. Hence no formal proposal was floated and no formal reply was required, he added. During the talks, the Indian side kept harping upon the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) that suit them. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, however, was quite categorical that it was not possible for Pakistan to grant MFN status or offer New Delhi access onwards to Central Asia in return for the construction of gas pipeline from Iran unless concrete steps were taken to resolve the core issue of Kashmir. Even the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service, put off till the proposed secretary-level talks, is being used by New Delhi to implicitly transform the Line of Control into permanent international border, said senior diplomatic sources. Shaukat Aziz, who was facing his first foreign policy challenge after becoming prime minister, acquitted himself well and refused to fall in the Indian trap. India would rather see the Kashmiris on both sides to cross the LoC by bus by showing their passports - obviously a no-go proposal for Pakistan. The Indian intellectuals, mediapersons and foreign policy practioners claim that New Delhi has come a long way since the days when it laid claims even on Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas as its integral part and cited a unanimous resolution of their parliament passed during Narashima Rao's regime. 'At least now we are willing to discuss Kashmir,' they maintain. It is another matter that the possible solution being offered is nothing more than greater autonomy for the Kashmiris. Interestingly, two months back when the last time Pakistan and India had secretary-level talks, the Indians had made it clear that sovereignty for Kashmiris was not an option.


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