November 1999 News

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Kashmir issue cannot be sidelined, says Musharraf

1 November 1999
The Hindu
Amit Baruah

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said today that hostility from India will be met with hostility and peace with peace. ``I will ensure the honour and dignity of this country. Nobody threatens us without getting a threatening response,'' a tough-talking Army Chief stated in response to questions.

At his first-ever press conference, the Army Chief announced that the ousted Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif's links with India and Indian leaders were being investigated and took strong exception to New Delhi's ``nuclear doctrine''.

About Pakistan's relationship with India, he said Islamabad favoured the resolution of all outstanding issues with New Delhi. ``We would like to resolve all our differences and when I say all our differences I mean the core issue of Kashmir first of all or simultaneously at least.''

``But if there is any design to address issues other than Kashmir and sideline the issue, I am not a part of it. The Kashmir issue has to be addressed and with that all other issues can be addressed. If this is the attitude we see from across the border, I can assure that I will be going far ahead of them (the Indians) in this area.''

About the recent article by the former Indian Prime Minister, Mr. I.K. Gujral, about his relationship with Mr. Sharif, Gen. Musharraf said he found it interesting. There was a ``very close relationship'' with those across the border.

He said whether it was a business relationship or setting up factories or investing money ``there'' (in India), all this was being investigated as part of the general charges against the former Prime Minister. There was also the issue of ``meeting people secretly'' and considering ``them'' closer than ``our own people''.

To a question if Pakistan would increase the number of nuclear weapons and missiles, he said, ``For our security, we will ensure minimum deterrence in the unconventional and conventional fields. In the unconventional field, with the developments across our borders....you know what India is doing....they are talking so big....they have a nuclear strategy which is extremely offensive in nature. We have to maintain a nuclear deterrent and that it what I am going to ensure.''

Clearly, the General is no dove on India and will look to be ``different'' from Mr. Sharif. His reference to ``investigations'' against Mr. Sharif on India will have a negative impact on the India-Pakistan ambience, which is already scarred by Kargil.

On Kargil, he claimed it took place in the ``framework'' of Kashmir. Denying any link between Kargil and the October 12 coup, the Army Chief said he did not have any differences with Mr. Sharif. He had given presentations twice in the Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC) and told the Government about the military situation. ``No one objected,'' the General maintained. The Army had done what the Government wanted after the July 4 Washington accord.

The Chief Executive also made it apparent that his military Government was there to stay for an unspecified time-period. Listing the revival of the economy, ensuring inter-provincial harmony and rehabilitating institutions as his priorities, Gen. Musharraf said he was not looking at ``time limits'', but ``objective limits'' to his rule. Whenever these objectives were achieved, that would be the amount of time required.

Gen. Musharraf made it clear that ``with due regard'' to the world community and the Commonwealth's concerns, he would go according to the ``needs and requirements'' of Pakistan. ``These will be supreme in my mind and not international demands,'' he maintained.


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