January 2002 News

Give up terrorism to resolve Kashmir: Blair to Musharraf

7 January 2002
The Daily Excelsior

Islamabad: British Prime Minister Tony Blair tonight bluntly told President Pervez Musharraf that time has come to abandon the option of using violence as a weapon to resolve the Kashmir issue and settle for comprehensive dialogue with India to peacefully resolve the vexed problem. ''Whatever may be the political cause, there can never be justification for acts of terrorism, whether it is Sept 11, Oct 1 or Dec 13 attack on the Indian Parliament,'' he told a joint press conference with Musharraf after two hours of talks. Without mincing words, Blair, who arrived here after intensive talks with Indian leaders, turned to Musharraf and said ''in our discussions, Mr President you made it clear that Pakistan rejects terrorism in all its forms. I welcome that. ''Prime Minister Vajpayee said that he is willing to have a dialogue on all the issues between India and Pakistan on the basis of exclusively peaceful means. That dialogue must be meaningful and comprehensive. In the meantime, I emphasised to both of you the desire of UK and international community to see that the current tensions are reduced,'' he said. In same breath, he said ''I spoke to (US) President Bush earlier today and we are absolutely one on this. We must all be resolute in our total rejection of acts of terrorism such as those of Oct 1 and Dec 13 and clear also that there should be proper meaningful peaceful dialogue to resolve disputes such as Kashmir.'' Blair made it clear that only India and Pakistan can resolve the disputes between themselves without the international mediation. Replying to a question whether he would agree to mediation in the Kashmir issue, Blair said ''we have been asked about the mediation. Our position always has been that India and Pakistan have to ultimately resolve.'' ''Of course, Pakistan has a very strong view of its position on Kashmir. It is not for me to try resolve this dispute myself. What we are trying to get across is that the only way to resolve in the end is through political dialogue. ''Everybody, not just India and Pakistan, has a right to make sure that they are not subjected to acts of terrorism. Also, the only way to resolve disputes such as Kashmir is through political process. That is the lesson of history with these disputes, particularly when two powerful countries were involved, the only to resolve is by people coming together and talking. ''I can not resolve this dispute. But what I can tell you that the international community desires is that circumstances to be created in which that meaningful and purposful dialogue could take place so that you can resolve it. For his part, Musharraf declared that he rejects all forms of terrorism and said his Government was taking step within Pakistan ''to bring some degree of normalcy, balance, introducing a tolerant society (and) checking any form of militancy within our society.'' Blair said ''no matter how strong the cause, people should understand that there can be no place for terrorist acts such as Oct 1 and Dec 13.'' Equally consistent was his reply that he saw no rationale in justifying acts of terrorism as that of part of freedom struggle as a section of Pakistanis preferred to argue. Replying to question whether he made any distinction between terrorism and freedom struggle, Blair told local journalist that ''let me be very very clear with you sir. People can feel strongly about a political cause. I certainly understand that. There are obviously very strongly held feelings here about the issue of Kashmir. People are entitled for those feelings. But I do not believe that anything can justify what happened on Oct 1 and Dec 13''. ''Both in my view are acts of terrorism. We can not support those in any shape or form at all. What I believe is important is that we get to a situation where the only real way the issue can ever get resolved is mainly through dialogue. Overwhelming desire of the outside world is it make sure that happens so that the two sides can come for proper meaningful dialogue,'' he said. In this context, Blair outlined his efforts to solve the Northern Ireland problem. After decades of violence, finally all the parties to the Irish question were to resolve it through dialogue. ''All killings of innocent civilians does is to rip people apart, divide them and make the resolution impossible,'' he said. Praising the role played by Musharraf and people of Pakistan in putting down terrorism, he said ''Pakistan should not stop with this but to extend the same resolve to solve the Kashmir issue''. ''People are clear that Pakistan shares in general an abhorrence and condemnation about what has happened in Oct 1 and Dec 13 and wants no part of any such terrorist activity,'' he said.


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