LoC is Berlin Wall, tear it down, says Musharraf

7 March 2009
The Nation


New Delhi: Echoing President Ronald Reagan's plea to the Soviet Union to 'tear down the Berlin Wall', former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf on Saturday exhorted India to 'tear down the Line of Control'.'This is another Berlin Wall,' Musharraf said of the 700-km-long LoC, 'it needs to be torn down.'Musharraf was speaking at the packed grand finale of the India Today Conclave, his first public speaking appearance since stepping down from office last year. The former president called for peaceful relations between Pakistan and India to allow them to fight terrorism more effectively. 'We must realise we are the victims of terrorism and extremism and we must go for solutions together,' Musharraf said.'Terrorism has to be defeated... in the world, in Pakistan and in India,' he said.He said he believed 'the dream of peace' is possible between the neighbours. But he added the two sides needed to build trust and that Kashmir, which was a key issue, needed to be resolved swiftly. The former president said both sides needed to be bold to confront the main challenges - 'the curse of terrorism and extremism', poverty, underdevelopment and hostility between the two countries.Both must avoid 'whipping up war hysteria and creating hatred in the public because of any terrorist attack that may have taken place,' he said.Borrowing from John Lennon, the former dictator made a strong plea for giving peace a chance, identifying three key unresolved issues between the two countries: Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and the Sir Creek dispute. In an extempore speech peppered with anecdotes of his eight-year reign, Musharraf painted a scenario of the peace dividends which could accrue if both countries settled disputes - tourism, economic prosperity and access to Central Asia and Iran. 'The 19th century was the European century, the 20th century was the American century and the 21st century is the Asian century,' he emphasised while speaking on 'Challenge of Change' at the conclave organised here by the India Today news magazine, adding that the three most serious challenges facing the two countries were the curse of terrorism and extremism, poverty and hostility between the two countries.'Kashmir remains the key dispute,' the General emphasised, stating how the struggle had created several freelance Mujahideen groups within Pakistan because there was public sympathy within that country for Kashmiris.