Map Redrawing Not Possible: Singh
17 April 2005
New Delhi: Long handshakes at Hyderabad House and Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) during General Musharraf's visit there on Sunday were not just symbolic but indicated some progress on the ongoing peace process. However, a joint statement seems to have run into difficulty following Indian insistence on ending terrorism in occupied Kashmir. As General Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh reached Hyderabad House after watching the last ODI played between Pakistan and India at Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium they huddled together for a one-on-one meeting that lasted for two hours. Even though Dr Manmohan kept reminding the General of his prior commitment, forming the part of January 2004 Joint Statement, that Pakistan would not allow the use of its territory for any terrorist activity, Kashmir remained at the centre stage of the talks. But the Indian Prime Minister once again reiterated his stance that redrawing of boundaries was not possible. However, he pledged to take every possible step to make the peace process a success. 'I will like to travel the road towards lasting peace,' Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran quoted Prime Minister Singh as saying while briefing journalists about the summit. According to him General Musharraf responded positively to the suggestions made by his hosts about improving ties with Pakistan. Perhaps as the Indian leadership did not want the General to walk away with 'headlines', especially against the backdrop of its reluctance to accord any major concession on the core dispute, it agreed to implement the Indus Basin Treaty in letter and in spirit. But it is not clear whether the Indian government is ready to accept Pakistan's proposal for allowing neutral experts to study this project as was being speculated by the local media. From the Indian side the stress, ostensibly, was on making the talks 'purposeful' so it offered a couple of confidence building measures to Pakistan while trying to sidestep Kashmir. It announced releasing 156 Pakistani fishermen on April 19 and another 130 civilians soon after receiving their travel documents from Pakistan. Both sides also agreed on setting up a Joint Business Council (JBC) to bolster bilateral trade and making Khokharapar-Munabao Bus service operational by December 2005 rather than October as earlier scheduled. Besides that, the issue of gas pipeline figured at the talks between the two leaders who also discussed the possibility of opening trade routes. The Indian Foreign Secretary's statement that both leaders maintained very positive tone throughout the talks was confirmed by the President's observation that there had been a forward movement on all issues, including Kashmir, and that there had been a forward movement towards improving bilateral ties between the two countries. According to Mr Saran, General Musharraf hailed Prime Minister Singh's vision of focusing energies on transforming the economic prospects of the region by resolving disputes between Pakistan and India-the two largest countries of South Asia. But when General Musharraf talks about turning the LoC into a 'soft border', the Indians interpret his statement their own way. The assessment here is that he is talking from a position of weakness: he has two much on his mind on his homefront when he says he is not looking for a solution of Kashmir but only Pakistan and India to reach 'a common ground'. They believe that the General is trying to jettison the MMA and rope in the moderate political forces for support on Pakistan's engagement with India. Separately, President Musharraf extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Singh to visit Pakistan. The Indian Prime Minister accepted the invitation. The programme of his Pakistan visit would be worked out soon. President Musharraf also invited ruling UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well as BJP president and leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha L.K. Advani to visit Pakistan who had called on the Pakistan President. AFP adds: Saran made it clear that the issue of an 'Islamic militancy' in the Indian zone of Kashmir was still bedevilling relations between the nuclear-armed rivals and could set back any progress. An official source told AFP that the two sides had also discussed measures that could be put in place to build trust between the two rival armies deployed across the Line of Control (LoC). Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, who accompanied Musharraf to the talks at the Hyderabad guest house, had ahead of the talks called on the two countries to take a 'realistic approach to resolve all outstanding issues between them.' 'We want solutions to all problems between us ... Kashmir is the central issue,' the United News of India news agency quoted him as saying. Singh and Musharraf also agreed to increase the frequency of the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service across divided Kashmir, which was relaunched on April 7 after a gap of almost 60 years. Musharraf, soon after his arrival in India on Saturday, called on the two neighbours to grasp the opportunity afforded by his visit to make headway on Kashmir, the subject of two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947.