Kashmir is the only issue to be discussed: Pervez
13 July 2001
The Asian Age
Islamabad: Pakistanís President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in an interview to Gulf News here that he would deem the Agra summit a success if ďIndia accepts the centrality of the Kashmir dispute,Ē and added that any Pakistani government which struck a deal with India that left out Kashmir would come to grief. In the interview, Gen. Musharraf also rejected the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration as failing to address the main issue ó Kashmir, and also rejected any move to make the Line of Control as a permanent solution. Excerpts: Q: The run up to the summit has started off with you being quoted as saying that you were ďopenĒ about it and ďflexibleĒ about the talks. But it is now being perceived that you have taken an 180ļ turn to emphasise over and over that talks must focus now solely on Kashmir. Why has that happened? A: I have never at all said that I will be flexible on the issue to be discussed which is Kashmir. I have said that Kashmir is the only issue. Yes, I will be flexible on Kashmir, but I would like to correct this misperception, this misunderstanding. I have never said that flexibility will be shown on the issue to be discussed. Kashmir is the issue, it is the reality on the ground. I am not saying anything which is unrealistic. Where is the tension between India and Pakistan? Is there tension because of anything else, therefore the focus should be on the main issue. The remaining issues, certainly if Prime Minister Vajpayee is keen, certainly one would go ahead and discuss those also. Q: Do you believe then that India is trying to deflect attention from what you see as the ďcoreĒ issue by raining Confidence Building Measures on Islamabad. A: Yes, this is certainly our perception. And this suspicion is there, not just now, I would say, it has been happening over the last 50 years, if not 40 years. In 1958, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared that Kashmir was a part of India and rejected plebiscite, till now Kashmir has always been sidelined by India and may I also add that, now that you have asked this question, even the Shimla Accord and the Lahore Declaration didnít make any progress. Why didnít it make any progress? That was because it avoided the main issue of Kashmir, anyone, any leadership in Pakistan that goes and has any arrangement with any Indian administration, makes any agreements, any deals where Kashmir is sidelined, I can say with full certainty, that that declaration or that treaty will never go forward because the people wonít let it go forward. And that is why the Shimla Accord and the Lahore Declaration did not move forward. Q: So that means that in the forthcoming Agra Agreement ó if there is one ó if the Indian government does not give you what you see as appropriate on Kashmir, you will go public with your disagreement on the issue? A: Well, letís not raise issues of opposition and... Q: Let me rephrase that, what would you like to see in the Agra Agreement? A: Again, this should be left to what I am going to discuss with Prime Minister Vajpayee. But I will say quite clearly, I am meaning to correct our focus. And we need to set our focus on Kashmir. And that certainly needs to be done. Q: General, on the other points of contention such as Sir Creek, the Wullar Barrage and Siachen, it is said that Pakistan and India were this close to an agreement, that surveyor- generals from both sides have demarcated the boundaries, that Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and the Prime Minister of Pakistan were in agreement. Would you allow these issues to be discussed concurrently with Kashmir, or will they be held hostage to the Kashmir issue? A: No, they could move concurrently, but what I would be against is if we start, and in the process of progress of dialogue, subsequent progress I am talking of, we sideline the Kashmir issue or drop the Kashmir issue, and we keep going forward on the Wullar Barrage and Sir Creek and all that. Now these are not the issues. The main issue is Kashmir. If the Kashmir issue is progressing well, I donít mind progressing up all issues. Certainly. I have no problem with that. But nothing can be done at the cost of Kashmir. Q: Well then this is obviously going to come up against the Indian governmentís view which has again been reiterated, over and over, just as you have that Kashmir is the main issue, that it is just one of the many issues that bedevil relations. Only the day before Mr Vajpayee told Indian Opposition leaders that it will be discussed in the totality of relations. A: Yes, letís do that, I am in agreement with Prime Minister Vajpayee on that. Fine. I am in agreement, I am not saying it should be discussed in any half-hearted way, we will discuss it in totality. Q: Would you be happy if the Indian government admits in some way or the other that Kashmir is the core issue, is that the minimum that you are looking for? A: Well I am just saying, itís nothing unusual that I am saying, I am not saying anything which is utopial by any nature. I mean we are trying to improve relations between India and Pakistan, engage India. The end game is this. I would say the end game really is to do something, that will improve the condition of this economically deprived region of the world, the most poverty stricken region of the world, one fifth of humanity is living in this Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and maybe if this is the only region to collaborate to improve its economic conditions. Therefore I think, what India and Pakistan must realise and the leadership in both these countries must realise, is that we must improve the condition of the people of the sub- continent. And how can we do that, we can do that if we remove the causes of tension between India and Pakistan. And how do we do that? By resolving Sir Creek? Or resolving Wullar Barrage? No, we have to do that by resolving the Kashmir dispute. I am just trying to be realistic. And if anyone thinks that this tension can be removed, by collaborating on improving economic conditions without resolving the cause of hatred between the two countries, I think, they are not being realistic. Q: Talking of hatred and animosity, they say that you are the first leader in Pakistan who is trying to remove the animus that has existed these last 50 years in one form or the other, within the Pakistan administration by telling them that if India walks the same road towards resolving the issue.. A: Yes, I would say that. Indeed, this is the line I am trying to take. Letís remove the root cause of the problem between the two countries. That is the only way forward between developing relations between us. In fact I would say, that the time has come when the public has also started realising that we must remove this tension, why is this region in the world only in the grip of tension. Of course, at some stage somebody has to come up and take decisions and free this region from this animosity. Q: There is also the view that the Army has thrived on this very animosity. Just as there is one view that it is only a military government in Pakistan and a Bharatiya Janata Party government in India which can deliver, there is also the opposite view that the Army thrives on this very animosity and has every reason to keep the Kashmir pot boiling for its own ends. Will it really be feasible for the Army to deliver on Kashmir? A: That is the view from India. That whenever there is a movement towards peace, it is the army that blocks and creates this feeling. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the people of Pakistan, not the Army. It is the people of Pakistan who will not allow anything to happen between India and Pakistan unless the main conflict is resolved. It is not the Army, I donít accept this point of view at all. The Army goes along with the government always. Unfortunately, what happened after the Lahore Declaration. I donít know whether you know it was the Jamaat-e-Islami which all out on the streets protesting. Was the Army doing that? It is the people of Pakistan. And nothing could happen further. The people of Pakistan will not allow it. I am afraid this is the reality. All that I am saying, people call me a very blunt person and all that, yes, I am, but I am just speaking the truth and the reality. Whether someone calls me blunt or... I donít contribute to this theory of diplomacy where you are hiding the truth and not spelling out the facts. I donít believe in that kind of diplomacy. I have never been a diplomat. Really, diplomacy is to put across your view in a diplomatic manner and not to hide the truth, not to speak the truth. I believe in a frank expression of views, and I try to do that as best as possible. Q: Thereís 48 hours to go before the summit. Could you give us a hint on what you feel, as the summit nears of what you would like to find coming out of Agra? Apart from the Kashmir issue itself, such as a lessening of troops from the Valley, or... A: No, I think everything, the starting point, let me put it this way, that would be going too far. I would really appreciate any withdrawal of troops, but thatís expecting too much maybe. If there is withdrawal, that would be excellent. But one has to first of all... Q: Strike a rapport? A: Yes, strike a rapport and build mutual understanding that strives for peace and the resolution of Kashmir. Everything will fall in line. Nothing fell in line in the past, because we were ignoring this basic fact. All the rest troop reduction or tension reduction, will follow through this one agreement, or acceptance or concurrence of views. Q: Did you change your mind about the Hurriyat after Yasin Malikís comments in an interview in London that Ďhe did not expect this of Pakistaní. A: I am not sure... Q: You did say that you would leave it to India, you would defer to Indiaís wishes on the matter. Yet, a day after Yasin Malikís interview, you issued an invitation to the Hurriyat for tea at the Pakistan high commission in Delhi. Many believe its a Ďstorm in a teacupí. Nevertheless, did you change your mind? A: I havenít changed my mind at all. Right from the beginning, I have said, and I am of this view even now, that there are three parties to the Kashmir dispute, the Indians, the Pakistanis and the Kashmiris, and we believe the Kashmirisí representative is the APHC. Now, Prime Minister Vajpayee has invited me, but I have always been saying, that although as a starter, we accept the non-presence of the Kashmiri representatives, but anytime in the future, they have to be included in the process of dialogue, if there is to be progress. Now, where the invitation for the APHC is concerned, we sent out the invitation because we feel the Kashmiris, the APHC ought to be taken along. However it is upto the Indian government, now whatever their decision on the subject. Q: That doesnít really answer it. Because if you say, itís up to the Indian government, they donít want the Hurriyat to come to tea. A: I donít know whether the Indian government has allowed them to come to tea. I would certainly prefer having them there but I am certainly not going to make an issue of it. Because thereís a greater issue involved. Q: India and Pakistan are nuclear capable nations today. And Pakistan has said time and again, that differences over Kashmir could spark off a nuclear conflict, that its a nuclear flashpoint. There is a view that if the Agra summit does not resolve the dispute, there is a growing likelihood of nuclear war, that Pakistan would not hesitate about using the nuclear option. A: Certainly, the leadership of the two countries should be show responsibility and show that the nuclear path is not the way to go down. And I would not like it said that if there is a failure now in Agra, we are closing to a nuclear holocaust, nothing of the sort. I only hope there is progress, but if there is failure, it will be very sad for the people of Pakistan, the people of India, in fact it will be very sad. But not closer to a nuclear exchange, I hope not. Q: Will there be a nuclear restraint regime? A: Yes, there is one in place. Certainly, we have erected this regime and we would go along with a nuclear restraint regime or any steps. Q: How would you describe your feelings as the summit approaches. Two days to go, are you worried, are you confident? What is it that is going through your mind? A: I never worry. That is out. I am at peace with myself. As they say, one doesnít clap with one hand, so on my side I am going with an extremely open mind so that progress is made and improvement of relations between India and Pakistan does take place. But similar keenness and desire has to be visible, and has to come up, and I am not worried but I am anxious. And I am intrigued I would say, uptil now whether the Indian leadership is going to accept the centrality of the Kashmir issue to be resolved. Because they have never done this before. So it is really intriguing. Because when they invited me, my stand has been very unambiguous, I think. Always without fail, I have been saying that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved between India and Pakistan. Now that theyíve invited me I have never created any doubt in their mind about where I stand. Q: The Indian government has made it clear that they have put Kargil behind them and that they are prepared to move forward. But they do have residual doubts about the jihadi elements. The fidayeen from the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba are more worrying than the militants from the Hizbul Mujahideen. You had said that you would examine whether you would encourage the suspension of the jihad if the right atmosphere is created. Has that time come? A: First of all, I certainly do not have total command and control over the jihad, or over the freedom struggle going on in the Valley, which has its own dynamics and itís very, very indigenous. All I can says is that, progress on the Kashmir issue between Mr Vajpayee and myself will certainly have a sobering effect on the freedom struggle. I would also like to say that when you say India has put Kargil behind them, Pakistan has put Siachen behind it. Because on Siachen, the Indians came in and altered the Line of Control, altered the status quo there which goes very much against and runs counter to the Shimla Agreement. It is written very unambiguously, that no party will alter the LOC, and that was done in Siachen first of all. Q: So do you accept then that the LoC should not be changed? A: Line of Control is the problem. What is the freedom struggle going on about. Itís about the Line of Control. Its the problem not the solution. How can the problem be the solution? There are a number of solutions, but before going to the solution, there are some that need to be rejected. One of them you have just said Ė the Line of Control being made permanent. Now who in Pakistan will ever accept this. Nobody in Pakistan can accept this and expect to stay in power. No leader in Pakistan can do this and expect it. I think it will be very unrealistic for any Indian leader to expect any leader of Pakistan to go and accept the permanence of the Line of Control. Q: Are you saying that Nawaz Sharif by accepting the July 4 agreement with Clinton on respecting the LoC dug his own grave? A: No, that didnít have any such .. Q: The agreement was that Pakistan would respect the LoC and withdraw its forces.. A: No, respecting the LoC is a different matter, accepting it as a permanent solution is another matter. That doesnít mean he accepted or we accepted that the Kashmir dispute is over and the LoC is permanent. I donít think he accepted that at all, that was not part of the agreement. Q: LoC, autonomous region, trifurcation .... A: Now you are coming to the final solution... itís rather premature to discuss a solution. I always say that to discuss solutions that maybe in itself so contentious, we may not start talking at all. So why talk of solutions, letís go step by step. Q: That means then, that Pakistan is looking really for a step by step solution? Talks at regular intervals where Kashmir is discussed. A: Well, I am for , if at all Prime Minister Vajpayee wants to discuss Kashmir and solve it, with all boldness I can sit there and in two days letís solve it, okay, or we can go 24 hours and solve it. Certainly, it entirely depends on the process of the dialogue. On this issue a lot of hype has been created internationally. I only hope and pray and desire that this summit turns out to be successful and we move forward towards establishing a better relationship, between Pakistan and India. Q: Why this utter silence then when India is raining Confidence Building Measures in what they say is a bid to create a better atmosphere? A: Yes, again, let us not deflect from the main issue, let us not dilute it, or digress from the main issue. How can we have CBMs when there is suspicion between the two countries. Letís remove the suspicion first and then go for confidence building measures. Q: How can you have suspicion and then go for CBMs? A: This is absolutely ridiculous. Other than these releasing of fishermen or that cyclist Ė that gentleman Vikas Ė anytime I would like to do that, I am an extremely humane person I would say, but on issues like the Director General of Military Operations wanting to meet our DGMO, what does he want to come here and talk. I am going to tell my DGMO just keep quiet. And keep listening. Myself and Mr Vajpayee have to talk first and then let the DGMOs talk. Anyway, the DGMOs talk every Wednesday on the telephone. What is the point in talking now before myself and Mr Vajpayee have spoken. Itís premature. Anyway, the biggest CBM is the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. What other CBM is better than this. Opening of entry points, opening of trade routes, all this can follow. Q: So there will be an Agra Agreement? A: I have read every single agreement and treaty between India and Pakistan. I have studied it carefully and nowhere does it mention that Kashmir is the issue. Why is that. You see, we must also understand each otherís compulsions. I would like to work to remove, to lessen the compulsions on the Indian leadership and they should work towards understanding and removing our compulsions.