January 2006 News

Musharraf Rules Out Independence For Kashmir

25 January 2006
The Times of India

Islamabad: Ruling out independence as an option to resolve the Kashmir issue, President Pervez Musharraf has said a 'minor step back' was required by India and Pakistan from their 'rigid positions' to evolve a solution based on his proposals of self-governance and demilitarisation. There was crucial need for showing flexibility to resolve the lingering Kashmir issue and demilitarisation and self- governance proposals offered a good arrangement, Musharraf said addressing an interactive gathering at the Nobel Institute in Oslo on Wednesday. 'If we keep going rigidly on our stated positions, we will never reach peace. We have to step back, all of us (India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris),' the country's state-run APP news agency quoted him as saying. Answering a question, Musharraf said he did not support the idea of independent Kashmir on the grounds that it might not be achievable as both India and Pakistan were opposed to it. Describing his proposals of self-governance and demilitarisation of Kashmir as the kind of solution that require a 'minor step back,' for both sides, he said 'we have to come out with something which is acceptable to the people of Kashmir who demand independence. We need to see what are the ingredients of self- governance and give them maximum including demilitarisation and security to the people.' Musharraf said that autonomy within the Indian constitution was not acceptable to either Pakistan or the 'Kashmiri people'. Similarly, a solution has to be found within the limitations of the Indian stance of no change in boundaries and to Pakistan's position against changing the LoC into a permanent border. Any solution that is not acceptable to one of the stakeholders would never succeed, Musharraf said. In view of this India and Pakistan have to see what 'we cannot give to them (Kashmiri people) and that what residual powers would be left with the Joint Management Mechanism, which should have people from Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris.' He said the joint management system was a 'good arrangement, which provides for self-governance, security of people' under the joint supervision of Pakistan, India and Kashmiris. Noting the thaw in Pakistan-India relations, Musharraf said the two countries were moving on two tracks of confidence building measures (CBMs) and dispute resolution. But while the CBMS were going very well the progress on the conflict resolution has been disappointing. 'When we talk of dispute resolution, it is the Kashmir dispute which is at the heart of the dispute between Pakistan and India,' he pointed out. Musharraf said peace in the region was not only in the interest of the two countries but also in the interest of the region and the world. 'Pakistan would not be found wanting in its desire to bring peace.' The Pakistani leader is currently on an official visit to Norway. He held talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and had lunch with King Harald on Wednesday. About the controversy over the recent US missile strikes on village near Afghanistan targeting Al Qaeda militants, Musharraf said Al Qaeda fighters were probably killed in the attack. 'Now that we've started investigating the reality on the ground, yes, we have found that there are foreigners there. That is for sure.' Pakistan protested to the US over air strikes and the loss of civilian life. 'There is indication that there were some people, also Al Qaeda people, who have gotten killed. Now we need to ascertain that. I'm not 100 per cent sure of that,' he said, adding Islamabad is in touch with the US after the air strike on Damadola village in Bajore agency. 'Yes, indeed, they do assure that they will not act against Pakistan's interest. My regret is that these foreigners are there and we need to eliminate (them),' he said, adding Pakistan's armed forces are capable of combating Al Qaeda militants without outside interference. 'We don't want interference in Pakistan... only Pakistan forces will act,' he said and dismissed criticism by opposition leaders that his government was too servile in allying itself with the US war on terror. He said Pakistan was acting in its own interests. 'We are first of all doing something for ourselves.'


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