March 2001 News

Kashmir is not a territotial dispute, says Musharraf

22 March 2001
The Asian Age
Ashish Kumar Sen

San Francisco: Kashmir is not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, instead it concerns the right of the people of Kashmir who “do not wish” to be with India, according to Pakistan’s Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf. In an interview to the Washington Times, when asked why the dispute over Kashmir is not submitted to the International Court of Justice, Gen. Musharraf said, “It is not a question of adjusting the Line of Control here and there between Indian-controlled Kashmir and free Kashmir. The Line of Control itself is the problem. The aspirations of the Kashmiri people is what this is all about.” Asked whether the issue could be resolved “across a table,” Gen. Musharraf replied, “Why does India say no? They want to talk about bilateral problems except Kashmir. But we have no bilateral issues with India except for Kashmir.” He chastised New Delhi for not agreeing to a third party mediation in the Kashmir dispute and suggested, “Let the United Nations or the United States become involved.” But, he added, “India won’t hear about it. India says let’s go back to the Lahore declaration of 1999. But I was there as Chief of Staff when it was drafted. The first draft did not even contain the word Kashmir. It was added later as an apologetic afterthought.” New Delhi’s envoy to Islamabad, Mr Vijay Nambiar, in a recent interview to the English daily the News said peace talks with Pakistan could begin in the near future if New Delhi got concrete evidence of a commitment from Islamabad to reign in militants indulging in violent activities in Kashmir. Mr Nambiar said the prime reason why talks remained a non-starter was the sharp increase in violence perpetrated by Pakistan-based militant groups. Reacting to statements from Gen. Musharraf about the resumption of an Indo-Pak dialogue, he said, “there are similar sentiments” on the Indian side “to develop a dialogue process based on enlarging our area of understanding and building a relationship afresh.” In a letter to Gen. Musharraf last month, his first official correspondence with the Pakistani dictator, US President George W. Bush called for direct talks between India and Pakistan to resolve outstanding issues. Mr Bush emphasised that “dialogue is vital for resolving the differences between the two countries”. Gen. Musharraf told the Washington Times every Pakistani was rooting for Mr Bush and when he won the November 2000 presidential election there was “sincere jubilation”. Asked whether this jubilation was misplaced, he replied, “No, not yet. We understand they need time to reassess relations with friends and adversaries alike. As you know, we took our lumps under the previous administration that initiated sanctions against us because we were not willing to leave India with a nuclear monopoly in the subcontinent. Hopefully old friendships can now be rekindled.” On the subject of Osama bin Laden, Gen. Musharraf said demonisation by the West of the world’s most wanted terrorist had turned him into a “cult figure among Muslims.” He said the world’s Muslims were angry with the West because of complaints ranging from “the decline in moral values as conveyed by Hollywood movies” to a perceived pattern of attacks on Muslims in Chechnya, the Balkans, the Palestinian territories and Iraq. As a result, the suspected terrorist had become “a hero figure on the pedestal of Muslim extremism.” He justified Pakistan’s support for the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan on the grounds of “national interest and security, pure and simple.” “We have one big threat from the east with India. We have no desire to add another threat from the west with Afghanistan where we have the same tribes on both sides of the border,” he said. But, he said, Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban was “certainly not what the United States seems to believe.” Gen. Musharraf said when he learnt of the Taliban’s plans to demolish all statues of Buddha, he had sent a strongly worded message admonishing them to cease and desist. “I also sent my interior minister to Kabul with an unequivocal demand that was ignored,” he added. The military ruler said the jihadis were growing in numbers in Pakistan primarily because of the struggle in Kashmir, where more and more Mujahideen (freedom fighters) are involved in the struggle to liberate Kashmir. “Twenty years of warfare by Kashmiri guerrillas is now morphing into a popular uprising by the people,” he explained. In a surprise move, Gen. Musharraf recently retired two leading scientists — Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, and Ashfaq Ahmad, the chairman of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission. Gen. Musharraf said these retirements were not an indicator that Pakistan was putting a freeze on further nuclear development. “Both these national heroes have been extended in their positions several times already. But I believe they will now join the government,” he said. Both Dr Khan and Mr Ahmad had declined Gen. Musharraf’s earlier offer to join his government at a Cabinet rank. However, the military ruler said Dr Khan had told him “his position has been misreported in the media and we are having dinner this coming week to work out his new assignment.”

 

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