December 2004 News

Indo-Pak Talks Stalling, So Meet Me: Musharraf

29 December 2004
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Pakistan 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 December 6 edition of Outlook, published on the magazine's website, quotes Musharraf as saying 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?' Musharraf said. The Pakistani leader was in Brazil on Monday at the start of two weeks of official visits that take in Latin American capitals before a Dec 4 meeting with US President George Bush followed by trips to London and Paris. Musharraf went abroad saying Kashmir, along with Pakistan's support for the Palestinian cause, would be central to discussions with Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac. The United States has encouraged Pakistan and India to settle differences over Kashmir. '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 BJP. India, according to Musharraf, has shown more interest in pushing confidence building measures than tackling the core issue of Kashmir within the composite dialogue. Publication of Musharraf's comments follow the return of Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to Islamabad at the end of last week with little to show from talks with Singh. Musharraf had tried to invigorate the dialogue over Kashmir before Aziz went to India, by publicly airing his idea: divide Kashmir on ethnic lines, demilitarise it and finally change its status, either towards independence, joint control or even UN control. New Delhi was nonplussed by Musharraf's gambit, and late last week Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh declared New Delhi would consider a large degree of autonomy for Kashmir, but was unwilling to redraw borders. Islamabad has made no official response to Natwar Singh's statement, but Pakistani newspapers over the weekend were virtually unanimous in proclaiming the Indian minister's proposals as a rehash of old, failed positions. 'What's the point of stating yet again India's maximal status quo position only a day after Mr Aziz's so-called goodwill mission to keep the dialogue on the rails?' The Daily Times editorial said on Sunday.


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