May 2005 News

Religion Can't Be Basis For J&K Solution: Mush

20 May 2005
The Indian Express

Islamabad: Acknowledging India's 'sensitivities', Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said tonight that a solution to the Kashmir issue cannot be on religious basis. Stating that 'We do understand India's sensitivities of their secular credentials', the Pakistani leader said a solution of the vexed issue cannot be on 'any religious basis' Addressing Parliamentarians and journalists from India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries here, Musharraf said 'therefore it (a solution) should be on a people's basis, regional basis'. 'To identify a region allow maximum self governance to people, demilitarise and take some action to make the border irrelevant,' he said. The Pakistani leader had in November last spoken about demilitarising regions but this is probably the first time he has ruled out a solution of Kashmir on the basis of religion. In a nearly two-hour interaction, Musharraf said his ideas to start with may sound 'confusing' but he was very confident that a solution could be reached on Kashmir that satisfied India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. He said a solution has to be found from within India's stand of no re-drawing of borders, Pakistan's stand of LoC cannot be a permanent border and boundaries becoming irrelevant. 'They are conflicting statements. The solution exactly lies somewhere in a compromise of the three. In fact, it lies in the third statement, that is boundaries becoming irrelevant. We need to find a via media (solution),' he said. Musharraf said history offered only 'fleeting moments' to resolve complex issues like Kashmir and the prevailing international atmosphere as well as improved relations between the two countries offered 'ideal opportunity' for him and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resolve it. 'It (solution) must be during the tenure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and myself,' he said while sounding reluctant to specify a timeframe, 'knowing the Indian sensitivities' over it. Asked by an Indian journalist whether he wanted a timeframe by suggesting resolution of the Kashmir issue during his and Singh's tenure, Musharraf said questions relating to timeframe should be put to the Indian government. 'I would be inclined to any timeframe. However, in view of sensitivities on your (Indian) side, may I say that practically and realistically one can't very strictly lay down in months and days. May be that is very difficult. 'But what I have said does indicate some kind of timeframe indeed. One does not know what is the future of these two (himself and Singh) incidental leaders', Musharraf said. He said it needed to be done because there was no guarantee that future leaders of the two countries would continue the process with same spirit. 'Harmony that exists between us, may be it continues with the future leaders also. But why leave anything to doubt? If you are sincere to reach a final peace, it is much better... If it is reached between us two. That is a timeframe which is very flexible, I would say and leave it to anyone's imagination. But one thing is clear it cannot be indefinite', he said.


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