Blair Refuses Pervez Kashmir Plea
6 December 2004
The Asian Age
London: Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf failed to secure Britain's intermediary role in negotiations over Kashmir during his talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair here on Monday. In the backdrop of reports that the Pakistan President will raise the prospect of a more direct role for the UK in India-Pakistan talks, Mr Blair reiterated the oft-repeated diplomatic line. 'We have all tried very hard over the years to help India and Pakistan and will continue to offer every support to ensure that relations between these two countries are not wholly dominated by Kashmir,' the British Prime Minister said following his lunch meeting with Gen. Musharraf at 10, Downing Street and thanked him for his courage and leadership during a very difficult time in the world. 'There is a prospect of a dialogue and we hope it will allow these two very great and powerful countries to deal with economic and other issues of bilateral and international importance rather than be ruled by the one issue of Kashmir,' he added. Gen. Musharraf, who is here on his first official visit to Britain from Washington, had been quoted by the British media as saying that he would love Britain to play a role as an intermediary. Asserting that he had exchanged notes on Kashmir during the two-hour-long meeting, he did not comment on Mr Blair's diplomatic response and simply said: 'Pakistan's stand is clear. There can be no solution to Kashmir without the involvement of the people of Kashmir and any solution has to be accepted by the people of Kashmir.' The improvement in the situation in Afghanistan, the urgent need to push for peace in West Asia and Iraq were among the topics on the agenda of the meeting. Besides reaffirming Pakistan's positive role in the war on terrorism, Gen. Musharraf seems to have secured a substantial economic package from the UK. 'Britain is Pakistan's greatest trade partner in Europe and understands our realities. The Prime Minister has agreed to enhance economic, commercial and trade ties bilaterally and with Europe. This visit will lead to a further cementing of the political and economic bonds between our countries,' he said. Widely quoted in Washington as criticising the West for making the world less safe with its war on terror and declaring that Pakistan's trail on Osama bin Laden has gone cold, the visiting President seemed to back-track on both issues. 'We are winning the battle against terrorists and hitting at the very core of terrorism. We have broken the back of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, apprehended at least 600 Qaeda operatives they are on the run, all their logistic bases have been smashed and our cities are reasonably clean now. Britain and Pakistan are working closely and there is absolute consonance of views in this fight against terror,' he said, offering a two-pronged strategy in reference to Iraq. 'There is a military path which deals with fighting the terrorists head on and this is being done. The second is the political path, which involves holding elections, and that will be done.' Accompanied by foreign minister Kurshid Mahmood Kasuri and commerce minister Humayun Akhtar, Gen. Musharraf may have been greeted by hardline Islamic protesters at the gates of Downing Street but received a very warm welcome from members of the UK government. He was specially congratulated by the British Prime Minister for bringing together moderate voices of Islam. During his two-day visit, Gen. Musharraf will address British MPs at the House of Commons on Tuesday morning before a lecture at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. He will then leave for Paris for talks with the French government.