Kashmir solution now or never: Musharraf
20 April 2005
The News International
Manila: President Pervez Musharraf pledged on Wednesday to curb attacks by militants in Kashmir to promote the peace process with neighbouring India and forge a solution to the lingering dispute in the Himalayas. Musharraf, on the last day of a visit to the Philippines, said Islamabad had made ending the decades-old dispute over Kashmir a priority of five key programmes to market Pakistan as an investment haven in South Asia. 'We need to resolve this issue once and for all in a flexible manner,' Musharraf told the prestigious Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Manila. 'The time of conflict management is over. It has to be conflict resolution. We must resolve this now or never.' Musharraf said Pakistan would stop militants from attacking bus services across the ceasefire line in Kashmir, and urged more confidence- building measures to move the peace process forward. He said acts of terrorism, like an attack on the recently resumed bus service, 'must be suppressed at all cost'. Musharraf said he wanted to correct misconceptions about Pakistan, rejecting accusations that Islamabad coddles militants and helped organise Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. President Musharraf said Pakistan was following a policy of maintaining minimum defensive deterrence but was not into an arms race. Musharraf told the foreign correspondents that Pakistan pursued the strategy of credible deterrence in both conventional and unconventional fields in accordance with the threat it may perceive. Pakistan, he said, had quantified the strategy of minimum defensive deterrence and was refining its deterrence level of force. Responding to a question, the president said whenever an imbalance was created in the region, Pakistan had to balance it out in accordance with its strategy of minimum deterrence. 'We are in the process of refining our missile technology but we are not into a race,' he said. Replying to another question, Musharraf said confidence building measures and conflict resolution needed to move in tandem. He said the Line of Control could not be a solution to the decades-old Kashmir dispute. On the United Nations reforms, the president said Pakistan was for reforming the world body into an effective organisation that might successfully tackle the problems facing the world. Pakistan, he said, was against the expansion of permanent members at the UN Security Council as it violated the basic principle of sovereign equality of nations. 'We are against creation of more centres of privilege and making some countries more equal than others,' he said. President Musharraf traced developments in the region from 1979 former Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan to September 11, 2001 events and said these impacted on Pakistani society. He renewed his call for addressing the malaise of extremism in its strategic dimension and identified political disputes, illiteracy and poverty as the causes breeding militancy and terrorism. In this context, the president referred to his vision of enlightened moderation and said the West must make efforts for just resolution of disputes affecting the Muslims. 'Failure is no more an option for the world - the lingering disputes like Palestine and Kashmir should be resolved,' he emphasised. Replying to a question, the president said the newly elected Pope could play his role in promoting inter-faith harmony in the world amid theories of clash of civilizations, but called for practical action for settlement of political disputes and establishment of durable peace worldwide. Pakistan, he said, was a vastly moderate society where there was no place for extremists. While the government continues to fight terrorism with force, it has also embarked upon a societal change to address extremism in the long-term perspective through a healing touch. 'Pakistan is not an extremist or intolerant society,' he underlined and sought the media's role in projecting true face of Pakistan, where people were religious but moderates. The president said his counter-extremism strategy focused on economic revival of the country, confronting terror with frontal attack, introduction of sustainable democracy in the country and projection of Pakistan's soft image through culture, sports and tourism. President Musharraf informed the globally represented gathering that Pakistan today had one of the freest media in the world, where both newspapers and private TV channels were free to air their views independently. President Musharraf said he would never allow foreign inspectors into the country to examine its nuclear facilities. 'That is tantamount to admitting that we cannot be trusted in our own house,' he told the reporters. Asked whether he would allow inspectors from the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the country's nuclear facilities, Musharraf said: 'Why?' 'Our nuclear programme is for the protection of the people of Pakistan,' he said. 'You have to understand that this is a very sensitive issue for us. 'And our people are sensitive to outsiders coming into our country asking questions. It's as though we cannot be trusted,' he said. 'If the IAEA has questions about our nuclear programme then let them ask us. We have nothing to hide. 'We will give them all the information they want but we will not allow their inspectors into our country to question our officials or inspect our facilities. 'If we did that it would be admitting that we can't be trusted.' He said the same also applies to the country's chief nuclear scientist Adbul Qadeer Khan. 'You have to understand that Khan is a national hero in our country. 'We will question him. No one should doubt our intention to give all the facts on this matter,' Musharraf said. The president said his trip to the Philippines was designed to 'cement commercial and trade relations'. Musharraf said he was grateful Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had indicated her support for Pakistan to join the East Asian Summit in Malaysia in December 2005, adding his country played a key role as bridge between East and South Asia. He said Pakistan was willing to give intelligence training as part of counter-terrorism cooperation with the Philippines to support peace talks between Manila and the largest Muslim rebel group in the largely Roman Catholic country. President of Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Virgilio Galvez welcomed the President as one of the most influential and sought-after leaders, whose vision matters in world affairs. 'He is a leader who can give us a sense of history happening in the world around us,' he added.