November 2004 News

Musharraf wants face-to-face talks: Dialogue on Kashmir

29 November 2004
The Dawn

New Delhi: President Pervez Musharraf wants to meet Indian leaders face to face to seek a settlement on the core dispute of Kashmir, as talks between foreign ministers have gone nowhere, an Indian magazine reported. The Dec 6 edition of Outlook, published on the magazine's website, quotes President Musharraf as saying that the Indian government was not treating the talks with sufficient urgency. 'You get an invitation for me tomorrow, I will be there,' he told the magazine. 'The foreign secretaries are meeting, the foreign ministers are meeting. Nothing will come out of these meetings. You go to these meetings and you are not even willing to talk. What can happen?' President Musharraf said. In the first official reaction to Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh's statement last Thursday that New Delhi would consider greater autonomy for Kashmir, but was unwilling to redraw borders, Islamabad said it was an old proposal which had been tried and rejected before. 'It is being baptised again, but I don't think this is a serious proposal because it has been rejected by the people of Kashmir,' Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said in Islamabad. In an interview with Outlook, President Musharraf vented his frustration with New Delhi's slow responses since the peace process was revived in January. 'Are we here just to speak? We are sovereign and equal. We are not here to speak while you listen. We would like to listen from you What do you say about the options available. We would like to listen from you. Okay?' Progress stuttered after India underwent a change of government in May, with the Congress-led coalition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh taking over from Atal Behari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist-led administration. India, according to President Musharraf, has shown more interest in pushing confidence-building measures than tackling the core issue of Kashmir within the composite dialogue. Publication of President Musharraf's comments follows the return of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to Islamabad at the end of last week with little to show from talks with Mr Singh. President Musharraf had tried to invigorate the dialogue over Kashmir before Mr Aziz went to India, by publicly airing his idea divide Kashmir on ethnic lines, demilitarize it and finally change its status, either towards independence, joint control or even UN control. New Delhi's nonplussed reaction was reflected in Natwar Singh's offer of more autonomy for Kashmiris but no changes in the frontier.


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