No shifting on Kashmir: Musharraf
15 August 2002
The Times of India
Islamabad: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara on Thursday he would not tolerate any moves to ''sideline'' the issue of Kashmir. Shara, also Syria''s deputy prime minister, travelled to Islamabad from New Delhi on Wednesday for talks with Musharraf and his counterpart Inam-ul Haq as a ''special envoy'' of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. ''The special envoy''s visit to India and Pakistan emanates from the desire of the Syrian president to defuse tension in South Asia,'' the foreign office said. The South Asian arch-rivals are in the throes of high-stakes tensions over Kashmir. Musharraf told Shara that ''any moves aimed at sidelining the Kashmir issue would not be acceptable.'' ''While Pakistan would not initiate a conflict with India, it would defend its territory, honour and dignity with full force if a war is imposed on Pakistan,'' Musharraf told the Syrian envoy. Musharraf and Shara also addressed challenges facing the Middle East and Arab world. ''The president pointed out the dangers posed by the Indo-Israeli nexus to the entire Muslim world and the need for the Muslim Ummah (community) to take unified and concrete steps,'' the foreign office said. In Damascus, the state SANA news agency said Assad''s message dealt with developments in the 23-month Middle East conflict and praised Pakistan''s support for the ''resistance'' of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and other Arab causes. It also expressed ''Syria''s attachment in the efforts aimed at avoiding a war between Pakistan and India'' over Kashmir. Musharraf also used the meeting to once again invite Assad to Pakistan, SANA said. Shara''s visit follows what officials here described as a ''ground-breaking'' trip by Musharraf to Damascus in January last year where he held talks with Assad and Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa Miro.