Our stand on Kashmir still same, says MEA
5 February 2001
The Asian Age
New Delhi: Barely two days after the first-ever telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf, India and Pakistan on Monday were locked in a fresh bout of “war of words” as New Delhi maintained that its stance on Kashmir remains “unchanged.” Responding Gen. Musharraf’s statement, MEA spokesperson said India’s position vis-à-vis Pakistan has not changed. The official said that New Delhi believes that Islamabad was abetting cross-border terrorism. “We have made our position clear from time to time. Our policy is consistent and our position remains unchanged,” the official said in response to Gen. Musharraf’s statements. After the telephonic conversation, which was seen as a positive development by experts on both sides of the border, Gen. Musharraf had attacked India for “oppressive rule” in Kashmir and demanded permission to Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan and asked New Delhi to “without any further delay, respond positively to our peace initiatives.” Reacting to the statement, a foreign office spokesperson said that there was encouragement and abatement to cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan. Such was the Indian reaction that when the spokesperson was asked on the proposed India-Pakistan cricket match at Sharjah, he said it was not a scheduled event. “Nothing which was scheduled has been cancelled,” he said, pleading ignorance about the move which was widely reported in the media. New Delhi also seems to have taken affront to the controversy regarding who called whom. There was confusion whether Prime Minister Vajpayee telephoned Gen. Musharraf last week or vice versa. The foreign office stuck to its statement of Saturday which said that Gen. Musharraf called Prime Minister Vajpayee. “The statement issued by MEA makes it clear Gen. Musharraf had telephoned Mr Vajpayee,” he said. In response to Gen. Musharraf’s statement, the spokesperson said Mr Vajpayee had articulated India’s stand during his conversation with the Pakistani military ruler. This had been clearly reflected in remarks made by external affairs minister Jaswant Singh in his just-concluded visit to Cairo. Pakistan on Monday observed solidarity day on Kashmir. Experts in New Delhi feel that Gen. Musharraf’s hard talk on Kashmir was part of his effort to cater to hardline elements within Pakistan who were opposed to an amicable settlement of the age-old dispute.