Pakistan, India Near 'accord' On Kashmir
19 April 2007
Islamabad: Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri Thursday revealed Pakistan and India have almost reached an 'agreement' to resolve the core issue of Kashmir and it is being given the final shape. In an exclusive interview with TheNation, Foreign Minister Kasuri said, 'Lot of the ground has been covered for an agreement on Kashmir and some areas of differences are being sorted out.' 'Certain steps are needed to create conducive environment so that the two governments could sell the 'package' to the people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir,' he added. When asked about the nature of accord, he expressed his inability to give the exact details owing to sensitivity of the matter and said most of the contours were being discussed in the media. However, another senior official here confided to TheNation that the proposed package on Kashmir bears resemblance to the President Musharraf's four-point Kashmir plan asking for the Kashmiris' self-rule, demilitarisation of the disputed territory, free movement across the Line of Control (LoC) and joint management by Pakistan and India. Kasuri said that the two nations were moving towards a settlement to Kashmir dispute that might not be the first best choice for all the three parties but it could be the second best. He said that the finalised Kashmir package would be presented before the Pakistani parliament for approval. However, if it were not approved by the parliament it would not be acceptable to Pakistan, he added. Kasuri also claimed that the progress made on the Kashmir package was irreversible and it did not matter whether the Musharraf government in Pakistan and that of Congress in India remained in power or not. To a question, he said that contrary to the general perception progress had been made by the South Asian nuclear states since the commencement of peace process back in January 2004. He said that the two sides were engaged in talks on the resolution of bilateral disputes at both the formal and informal level. He added that realisation had emerged on both sides of the border that the war could not bring a solution to Kashmir or any other issue on the composite dialogue agenda. When asked about the likely timeframe for the settlement of Kashmir dispute, the Foreign Minister said that the progress made so far was beyond the imagination. 'It also depends on the internal situation in the two countries as it is going to be an election year in Pakistan whereas in India polls are being held in some of the states,' he added. When asked what were the steps being taken by the two governments to make the Kashmir package acceptable for the people of two states and Kashmiris, the Foreign Minister said that he would not give the details as in that case India could come up with objections. Nonetheless, he said that the two sides were not going for any secret deal and all they were doing was to avoid unnecessary opposition by some elements on both sides before the finalisation of the vital pact. To a question on possible UN role in the Kashmir resolution plan, Kasuri declined to respond. When asked about the Mujahideen's role, he said that the President Musharraf had given a statement regarding Pakistan's influence on Mujahideen but it was grossly misunderstood. Answering a query on Siachen issue, Foreign Minister Kasuri said that the proposals given by Pakistan for the settlement of contentious matter served the interests of both countries. He said that the troops' positions on both sides could be determined with the help of satellite. He said that the India's political leadership was in the favour of negotiated settlement to Siachen dispute but some statements by the Indian defense authorities in this regard were surprising. He denied the press reports that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Pakistan was linked to the solution of Siachen or Sir Creek issue. However, he added that it was going to be a high profile visit and hence there should be an agreement on any one of the major issues between the two sides. Responding to a question, Kasuri said that Pakistan was not dissociating itself from the ongoing war on terror. He added that the President had only refuted the baseless allegations against Pakistan as for its anti-terror efforts in his recent statements. He said Pakistan had waged the war against terrorism in order to safeguard its own national interests and not after coming under pressure from the United States. To another question, he said that Pakistan and Iran enjoyed close friendly relations and any attack on the neighborly state would be unacceptable for Islamabad. On Israel, the Foreign Minister said the Pakistan's position on vital issue was same as that of Arab world adding that by following the 'land for peace' plan the Middle East crisis could be defused. He said that Turkey was trying sincerely to improve the relations between Pakistan and its neighbour Afghanistan. However, he cautioned Kabul against leveling of baseless allegations against Pakistan.