January 2004 News

Kashmiris back peace process: Krepon

22 January 2004
The Daily Times

WASHINGTON: The Pakistan-India peace process is viewed by most Kashmiris with favour and public opinion in both the Valley and Jammu is 'very supportive of this trend', according to Michael Krepon, founding president of the Stimson Centre, a think tank with a special interest in South Asia.Mr Krepon told Aziz Haniffa of India Abroad in an interview published on Thursday that Kashmiri groups that have relied on violence to secure their objectives would not be happy at the rapprochement. He said it was apparent that the Islamabad summit was 'very carefully prepared and there were quiet, meaningful conversations by senior Indian and Pakistani leaders,' a development that could only be called positive. The fact that the first meeting is taking place in February means that 'a lot of important ground was covered in private conversations in Islamabad,' he added.Mr Krepon makes regular visits to Held Kashmir and is particularly close to such Kashmiri leaders as Yasin Malik. He said one indicator of how the forthcoming Pakistan-India talks were going would be whether or not Pakistan would relax its linkage between trade and Kashmir. A second indicator is whether Pakistan would relax its linkage between nuclear risk reduction measures and satisfactory progress in its view of Kashmir. 'If there is movement on trade and if there is movement on nuclear risk reduction this will benefit India, it will benefit Pakistan, it will benefit everybody,' he added.Mr Krepon said the credit for the resumption of the dialogue 'goes primarily to Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf. Every capital in the world wanted this meeting to be a success but no foreign capital could engineer a successful summit. That was entirely the doing of Gen Musharraf and Mr Vajpayee. I am sure Washington weighed in, but what mattered most was the work of the two leaders.' He did not think a proactive US role was needed at this point, though there was need for US facilitation. Washington, he suggested, should take reinforcing steps to help the process succeed. He disclosed that a lot of work had been done on nuclear risk reduction measures and 'measures are ready to be negotiated and implemented.'Mr Krepon said President Musharraf was an 'extraordinarily brave man and he understood when efforts were made towards reconciliation, there were also assassination attempts.' He said if the general did not know it before, he knows it now that it is impossible to keep Jaish-e-Muhammad happy, or at least all its constituent parts. 'I hope this lesson has been learnt by Pakistan's national security establishment, not just by General Musharraf.'


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