April 2005 News

Kashmir: An End To Rhetoric

5 April 2005
The News International

Islamabad: Senator Mushahid Hussain's statement on Sunday that Pakistan had abandoned the position of 'Kashmir first, other issues later' is the latest expression of the realistic shift in the country's position on the problem. President Musharraf, who is scheduled to fly to India on April 16, has already described the UN resolutions on Kashmir as irrelevant in today's situation. That's something the senator repeated during a meeting with senior journalists in Islamabad. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain himself said at the meeting he held at his home to brief the journalists on the parliamentary delegation he led to New Delhi last week, that this change of approach on Kashmir was the only way to peace with India. The senator, who was part of the ten-member delegation, called for 'an end to rhetoric' on the problem. This can be harder in the case of our two countries than even a change in fundamental positions. Virulent rhetoric has been the chief element sustaining the terrible hostility between the two countries for nearly six decades, and even Mr Mushahid Hussain wouldn't be so naive as to believe it's going to end in future. However, the very fact that the delegation received top-level welcome during its four-day visit is an indication that, rhetoric or not, things are moving forward in relations with India. Preceding President Musharraf's three-day visit is the path-breaking inauguration of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday. BJP leader Lal Kishan Advani plans to make a trip to Pakistan in June - a highly symbolic event during which will be a visit to a renovated Hindu temple in Lahore - and the Khokhrapar-Munabao rail link is due to reopen in October. From all appearances, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 'high road to peace' is now wide open. That is a phrase the former Indian prime minister used before his Agra summit with President Musharraf in 2001. Hopes, encouraged by peace rhetoric from both sides, that that road was going to lead somewhere at last were dashed shortly afterwards. The two countries came to the brink of conflict, with the traditional Indo-Pakistani war of words accompanying the massing of troops on the borders. Let's hope the gains of the president's visit to India will be more concrete than those of his last one.


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