Kashmir solution ‘within reach’: India’s turn to make concessions: Musharraf
12 September 2006
Brussels: President Pervez Musharraf has urged India to make early concessions to resolve the Kashmir dispute, saying that he is optimistic that a solution is within reach. “The objective is within reach ... I am really hopeful the process will move forward,” he said at a conference on Kashmir at the European Parliament on Tuesday. Gen Musharraf insisted that it was India’s turn to make concessions and take into account long-running indications from Islamabad that it would no longer insist on a plebiscite among Kashmiris over their future. “I have not given an inch. We will not move away from our stance until we see India move away from its stance,” he said, insisting that a firm agreement to dispense with a plebiscite was dependent on Indian efforts to find a compromise. “We have to engage in out-of-the-box thinking ... An out-of-the-box solution is required,” he said, calling for more Kashmiri involvement in resolving the dispute. “Any settlement must be acceptable first to the people of Kashmir,” he said. “I sincerely believe that today opportunity exists and it must be seized to resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue,” he said. He said that improved relations between Pakistan and India, as well as a ‘conducive international environment,’ could help improve dialogue over Kashmir if regional leaders were sincere, flexible and bold. “Leaders who cannot grasp fleeting opportunity are no leaders,” he said. President Musharraf said he believed the best way forward would be to introduce confidence-building measures and increase the involvement of Kashmiri leaders, before finally focusing on a settlement. He praised Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as ‘a man of sincerity’ with ‘a flexible approach’ and said he hoped the Indian premier would show the courage needed to resolve the conflict. But, likening the talks to a high-stakes poker game, the president insisted that Pakistan was “only prepared to be flexible on how to move forward” from its stance if India also played a card. Ahead of their planned talks at a summit of the Non- Aligned Movement in Havana, the Indian premier has said he would remind Gen Musharraf of his promise to rein in militant groups. However, the president suggested he had little sway with the militants, who he said were also “trying to kill me” and that the heart of many of the two countries’ problems was linked to Kashmir. “Let us have the motivation for everything by moving forward the Kashmir process toward a resolution and then everything will fall in line, even those terrorists,” he said. BELGIAN PM During talks with Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, President Musharraf called for the European Union to play a major role in resolving the crisis in the Middle East. The two leaders discussed ways and means to strengthen the ties between their countries, particularly in the fields of trade and economy. President Musharraf informed the Belgium prime minister about Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region and the country’s achievements in trade and economy. He apprised the host about the country’s efforts as a front-line state in fighting terrorism and extremism. The recent crisis in Lebanon and the situation in Afghanistan were the focus of discussion as the two leaders agreed on the need for resolving problems in the Middle East as soon as possible.