Saturday, Jun 14, 2003
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By B. Muralidhar Reddy
In an interview to the Saudi daily, Okaz, Gen. Musharraf was unusually blunt in his observations on Kashmir and said that "terming the just struggle of (the) people of Kashmir cross-border terrorism is nothing but a dishonest portrayal of facts". Since the peace initiative by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, on April 17/18, Gen. Musharraf had tended to be careful in his formulation on Kashmir.
The statement on the resumption of air-links should put at rest doubts in New Delhi on whether or not Islamabad is willing to grant overflight facilities. Of course, Pakistan has compounded the problem by choosing to maintain an enigmatic silence on the subject.
Islamabad's stated position being that issue of overflight facilities was to be settled between civil aviation experts from both sides.
"We are also looking forward to the restoration of full diplomatic contacts leading to a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with India," Gen. Musharraf told the paper. The interview coincided with his day-long visit to Riyadh for discussions on cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the field of terrorism, particularly in the context of the recent bombings in the Kingdom.
The General's desire for resumption of full diplomatic contacts means Islamabad wants restoration of the pre-December 13, 2001, status between the two countries. Responding to the confidence-building measures announced by Mr. Vajpayee his Pakistani counterpart, Mir Zafarullah Khan, unveiled a six-point India-centric agenda. New Delhi had said that it would respond on the CBMs keeping in view the ground realities, a reference to "cross border infiltration and dismantling of terrorism infrastructure".
Gen. Musharraf claimed that in 1989, following decades of repression by India, the Kashmiri people renewed their indigenous struggle for self-determination, which India tried to put down with brutal use of force.
"The Kashmiri people were, therefore, left with no option but to take up arms in their legitimate struggle for their right of self-determination," he said. "The Kashmiri struggle is indigenous. No freedom movement that has touched millions could be sustained by mere outside support."
Pakistan wanted a peaceful and just resolution of the Kashmir `dispute', he said and expressed the hope that a similar spirit would prevail in India to achieve lasting peace in South Asia. Reaffirming Pakistan's position on the issue, he called for a peaceful and just resolution, in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir as mandated in the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"Pakistan has always emphasised the necessity of a meaningful and constructive dialogue to resolve the Kashmir dispute. We are and will remain optimistic about achieving a negotiated settlement to the dispute," he said and hoped "a similar spirit will eventually prevail on the other side and we will make progress towards a lasting peace in South Asia.''
Gen. Musharraf conceded that although the two countries did not enjoy the best of relations "at least we have agreed to talk to each other and hopefully we will gradually move forward with time".
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