Kashmir Accord Seen Within 3 Years, Says Musharraf
5 August 2004
Islamabad: The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir should be settled well within three years, Pakistan's president said in a newspaper interview on Thursday, as talks began to extend a ceasefire in the Himalayan region. President Pervez Musharraf told the Dawn newspaper he was not trying to impose a deadline, but he wanted a speedy end to nearly five decades of argument which has led to two wars between the South Asian nuclear rivals. 'I have not asked them to give any timeframe,' Musharraf told the Pakistani daily. Talks opened in New Delhi on Thursday to build on a ceasefire that has held since November on the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battleground in northern Kashmir - where more soldiers die from altitude sickness and frostbite than enemy gunfire. Asked whether the solution to Kashmir could be found in three years, Musharraf replied: 'I don't know. It should be resolved much before three years.' The two nuclear rivals restarted a peace process at the beginning of this year after nearing war again in 2002, after India accused Pakistan of supporting militants who attacked India's parliament. The fighting over Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state, goes back to independence in 1947 when the newly independent subcontinent was split between Islamic Pakistan and India - officially non-sectarian but with a Hindu majority. India sees Kashmir as integral to its identity as a country that embraces all religions but has lost control of large areas to Pakistan through war. Musharraf described a statement by Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh that there was no hurry to settle the Kashmir issue as a comparative term. 'But what I would like to say is that we should move as fast as possible. 'If we don't, then we can't have confidence boosting measures,' he said, adding that such measures needed to move in tandem with dialogue. In New Delhi on Wednesday, India and Pakistan agreed to boost ties between their people divided by decades of enmity but did not publicise details. Analysts said any pact to promote people-to-people contact, one of the few areas of concrete progress in a renewed bid for peace, was likely to be announced by the two countries' foreign ministers, who plan a review of the peace process next month.