January 2004 News

Vajpayee: Pakistan Must Change Its Stance On Kashmir

1 January 2004
Voice of America

Islamabad: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee says no meaningful discussions can be held on Kashmir unless there is a fundamental change in Pakistan's stance on the issue. In a magazine interview, he said no meaningful talks can take place as long as Pakistan believes it has a claim to Kashmir because it is a Muslim-majority state. At the same time, the prime minister says he is optimistic that the Kashmir issue will be sorted out within his lifetime. A cease-fire Line of Control separates the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. Two thirds of the Muslim dominated region is controlled by India and the rest by Pakistan. Last month, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf offered to drop his country's longstanding demand for a U.N.-mandated plebiscite in Kashmir in a bid to resolve the issue. President Bush said Thursday that he commends India and Pakistan for recent efforts towards the peaceful resolution of major issues between them. Mr. Bush also said he thought it important that India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have a secure nuclear weapons program. The president made his remarks in Texas, where he is spending the holidays. Mr. Bush also commented on two recent attempts on General Musharraf's life, saying the Pakistani leader has shown himself capable of standing up to terrorists. Bush Commends India, Pakistan for Steps Toward Peaceful Solutions Paula Wolfson White House President Bush says India and Pakistan seem to be resolving their long-standing disputes slowly but surely. Mr. Bush also says he sees progress in Pakistan's efforts to control extremists. President Bush says the leaders of Pakistan and India are taking steps toward a peaceful reconciliation of the issues that have divided them for years. He acknowledges the process is not easy or quick, but adds they appear to be moving slowly but surely in a positive direction. The president spoke to reporters after a New Year's Day hunting trip with family and friends in southern Texas. He noted that India's prime minister is about to make his first trip to Pakistan in four years in order to attend a South Asia summit, and added he is hopeful the upcoming meetings will produce results. Mr. Bush also talked about the recent assassination attempts on Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. He said he has spoken to the Pakistani leader, and praised his help in the war on terrorism. He said progress is being made against al-Qaida terrorists because of Pakistani co-operation, although he noted more needs to be done along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.


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