Musharraf Takes Kashmir To West
27 November 2004
The Times of India
Islamabad: The time was right to resolve the long-running disputes over Kashmir and the plight of Palestinians, Pakistan President said on Friday as he left for two weeks of meetings with world leaders. Pervez Musharraf, a Muslim leader at the forefront of the US-led 'war on terror', is travelling to South America and then on to Washington, London and Paris to urge the West to help resolve some of the most divisive issues in the Islamic world. 'I think both - the Palestinian dispute and the Kashmir dispute - are absolutely ripe for resolution and we have to resolve them. That will bring considerable stability to the world,' Musharraf said on state-run Pakistan Television. Musharraf has long singled out the Kashmir and Palestinian disputes as root causes of terrorism among Muslims. Raising the two issues in talks with Western leaders was an attempt by Musharraf to show Pakistanis suspicious of his close ties to the United States that he championed Muslim causes, an analyst said. The United States has encouraged Pakistan and India to settle differences over Kashmir, a divided Himalayan region over which the nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars since independence from Britain in 1947. Progress has been made in peace talks but it has been too slow for Musharraf's liking. India has suggested giving majority-Muslim Kashmir greater autonomy but says it will not redraw its borders. India controls nearly half of Kashmir, Pakistan a third and China the rest. The December 4 meeting between Musharraf and President George W Bush's comes after the Pentagon notified Congress of three proposed arms sales to Pakistan worth $1.2 billion, in a move that raised eye-brows in India. Musharraf was also expected to raise Pakistan's nearly 15-year quest for advanced F-16 fighter aircraft, the News, a Pakistani daily, reported. Musharraf, often criticised at home for being slow to foster democracy after seizing power in a military coup five years ago, will aim to reinforce ties at the outset of Bush's second term. The relationship between Bush and Musharraf goes back to the days after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, when Bush persuaded the Pakistani leader to withdraw support for al-Qaeda's Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. Pakistan has since arrested close to 600 suspected al- Qaeda members, and a year ago Musharraf escaped two al-Qaeda- inspired assassination attempts. The Pakistan security forces' increasingly vigorous approach, highlighted last month by a clamp down in border areas to stop Taliban insurgents disrupting Afghanistan's historic presidential election, has earned credit in Washington, analysts say. Analyst Talat Masood said Musharraf wanted to use his rapport with Bush to champion issues crucial to Muslims. 'He wants to present himself as a figure representing not only Pakistan. He wants to represent general feelings in the Muslim world. He wants to take up the most important problems of the Muslim world with the most important person in the world,' said the retired general, now a columnist. Musharraf first goes to Brazil, Argentina and Mexico to build political and economic ties before going to Washington. He will meet French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair later in the tour.