Saturday, Jun 14, 2003
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By Our Diplomatic Correspondent
In an interview to NDTV, the Pakistan President said he was ready to "lead" talks with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, while not ruling out the possibility of future Kargils. On whether he ruled out another Kargil, Gen. Musharraf, widely regarded as the architect of the 1999 misadventure, was quoted as saying: "No. Let me tell you that before Kargil, Kashmir was a dead issue. To avoid Kargils, we need to resolve disputes and much depends on how we proceed on the peace track."
Denying that Kargil was against Pakistan's interests, he reiterated an oft-repeated position: "Kargil was a decision taken by the mujahideen, and we got involved because of the action taken by the Indian troops." In what appeared to be a bid to inject himself into the Vajpayee-Jamali track, the President said, "(Pakistani) Prime Minister (Mir Zafarullah) Khan Jamali may be a better person for him to meet, but if Mr. Vajpayee is willing to meet me, I would be more than willing to meet him and lead the talks".
Gen. Musharraf's responses seemed to suggest there had been little shift in the Pakistani position on India. "We can talk of trade and economy and other issues, but no talks will succeed unless the core issue is addressed."
On the impressive turnout in last year's election to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, the General said he was "clear" on one thing that the people of Kashmir did not want to be part of India. "I would like cricket and all sporting ties to resume... but cricket is a `trivial' issue. And let me tell you that my players don't want to play in India."
Interestingly, the Pakistani leader was ready to consider sending his troops to Iraq in what appeared to be an attempt to appear "more willing" than India to commit troops to Iraq.
Pointing out that his own "referendum" was a mistake, the President said he regretted the way democracy and Parliament had emerged in Pakistan after the elections. Pakistan, he felt, had failed to evolve a functioning democracy.
On the imposition of the Shariat in the North-West Frontier Province by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal administration, the General said he would dismiss the provincial Government if it moved towards "Talibanisation" of NWFP.
"I am for a moderate, progressive and dynamic Islamic state," he added.
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