June 2005 News

Musharraf Says In KL Kashmir Issue Could Be Solved In 'two Weeks' If Leaders Show Will

12 June 2005
Associated Press

Kuala Lumpur: Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Monday that the decades-old dispute with archrival India over Kashmir could be solved in two weeks if leaders of both countries showed the political will. Hopes have increased for ending the 58-year-old territorial dispute over the Himalayan region between the two nuclear-powered neighbors following peace initiatives by Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Some optimists have even talked about a final solution within two years. Asked if he shared that optimism, Musharraf said: 'Why two years, I think it can be resolved within two weeks if we have the will.' 'I am just saying two weeks (as an example.) The most important thing is for the leadership to have the will to reach a conclusion,' Musharraf told reporters in Kuala Lumpur during a refueling stop on his way to Australia. 'At this moment, the leadership has the will and I am very hopeful.' The peace process received a boost Sunday when Singh said his government is trying to turn Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battlefield located in Kashmir, into a 'mountain of peace' with rival Pakistan. Singh said India and Pakistan were exploring the possibility of pulling their troops out of the frozen wasteland, where more troops die of cold and altitude sickness than in combat. Musharraf confirmed that the talks were proceeding on issues such as withdrawing troops from Siachen, the 6,100-meter (20,000-foot) -high glacier, where temperatures can drop to minus 60 C (minus 76 F). He said negotiations to redeploy the troops are meant to end the 'eyeball to eyeball confrontation,' adding that he was 'sure we'll reach a conclusion.' Siachen is only part of the dispute in the two countries' larger enmity over Kashmir over which they have fought two wars since their independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim the entire region, which is now unequally divided between them by a 'Line of Control.' But Islamabad and New Delhi have shown equal willingness to make life easier for Kashmiris living on both sides of the Line of Control in recent months. In April, they introduced a bus service linking Srinagar, the summer capital of India's part of Kashmir, with Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan's section. Asked if he would like to visit Indian-held Kashmir, Musharraf said: 'I would love to go there.' But he added that he will not make a formal proposal to visit the region because, 'the time is not ripe yet.' Musharraf refused to affirm if he will step down by 2007 and hand power to civilian leaders, saying 'we will cross the bridge when we come to it.' Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and later held parliamentary elections, will complete his term as president in 2007, although the ruling party has said it wants him to remain in power beyond that.


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