Bush Urges Pak, India To Solve Kashmir
2 March 2006
New Delhi: US President George W Bush Thursday urged India and Pakistan to settle a decades-old dispute over Kashmir, the cause of two of their three wars since independence in 1947. The comments came as some Muslim Kashmiri leaders in the region, urged Bush to step into the dispute. The US president, after landmark talks that sealed a deal on civilian nuclear trade with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, called on the two nuclear-capable neighbours to iron out their differences. 'India and Pakistan have an opportunity to work towards lasting peace,' Bush said. 'Prime Minister Singh and President Musharraf have shown themselves to be leaders of courage and vision and I encourage them to continue making progress on all issues including Kashmir,' Bush told reporters. The two neighbours, who carried out tit-for-tat nuclear weapons tests in 1998, are engaged in a two-year-old peace process but have yet to find a concrete solution over Kashmir. In Srinagar, summer capital of Indian held Kashmir, Kashmiri leaders hoped Bush could help resolve regional rivalries. 'We certainly believe President Bush can play an important role in resolving the dispute over Kashmir,' Yasin Malik, a senior Kashmiri leader, told AFP. 'Being a close friend of India and Pakistan Bush can certainly use his good offices to end the dispute.' On Wednesday Musharraf told the BBC he hoped Bush would push for a solution. 'All that I expect is his weight, his voice pressurising all three groups - me, Indians and Kashmiris - to resolve the dispute now because now is the ideal time, ideal environment to resolve it,' said Musharraf. Kashmiri leaders' demands range from independence to merger with Pakistan. Shabbir Shah, another senior Kashmiri leader, said he was hopeful. 'The time is certainly ripe for solution. After years of hostilities India and Pakistan are holding talks and have taken some positive steps. Now is the time to get serious on the Kashmir issue,' said Shah. More than 44,000 people have died in Kashmir since the launch of freedom movement in 1989.