US May Mediate On Kashmir: Faisal
15 February 2006
Islamabad: The United States may mediate between Pakistan and India to help resolve the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the forthcoming visit of President Bush to South Asia is very significant in this regard. This was stated by Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat here on Wednesday in an exclusive interview to The Nation. He said the upcoming visit of President Bush to Islamabad after concluding a trip to India was very significant in terms of solution to the Kashmir issue. When asked whether the United States could assume the role of mediator between Pakistan and India on Kashmir, he responded that it was likely. He said Pakistan had approached Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other friendly states like the United States to bring just settlement to Kashmir problem. To a question, he rejected the impression created by Indian media that the vital proposal of 'self-governance and demilitarization in Kashmir' was vague and confusing. He added that the proposal put forth by President Musharraf was a step by step approach aimed at the local self-rule of Kashmiris with people of Valley being empowered to run their day-to-day affairs sans subjects like defence, currency and foreign affairs etc. When asked whether the three vital subjects would come under the 'joint management' of Pakistan and India as reportedly proposed by President Musharraf, the minister said those matters needed to be worked out. He said the self-rule plan had been given to India formally but its response was being awaited in Pakistani capital. He added the basic aim of proposal was to give maximum comfort to Kashmiris free of all sorts of harassment. To another question, he said India needed to withdraw bulk of its troops from held Kashmir, adding that the situation could not improve by calling back few thousand troops. He said Pakistan had taken a number of confidence building measures with the hope this that course would lead to just settlement of Kashmir issue. However, he added that India had not showed so far the required flexibility. He said as a part of confidence building measures five points had been opened at LoC to facilitate the relief works in quake-hit areas of Azad Kashmir. Apart from that, he added, two more points were likely to be opened at LoC next months to hold meetings between the divided Kashmiri families. He added that the truck service to transport trade goods across LoC was likely to begin soon and for that talks would be held next month. Answering a query, Minister for Kashmir Affairs said no cut-off date had been attached to the opening of five points at LoC. He added it had been always Pakistan's policy that there ought to be maximum possible interaction between the Kashmiri people on both sides of the LoC. To another question, he said all the political parties and especially those in Azad Kashmir were being taken into confidence on peace process between Islamabad and New Delhi. He added that the parliament would be taken into confidence whenever something substantial occurred, as for Kashmir issue. Similarly, he said all the stakeholders were being kept informed on what was happening on the front of secret diplomacy. The Minister for Kashmir Affairs belied the impression of no progress on Kashmir in the well over two- year long peace process between Pakistan and India. He said keeping in view the bitter past and the history of acrimony between the South Asian nuclear rivals whatever was achieved in terms of increased interaction between the people on both sides of the line of Control could be termed as marked achievement. He said the APHC leadership from occupied Valley had come twice to Pakistan, something that could not be imagined few years back. He added that now even the Indian leaders were talking to Kashmiri leaders who were dubbed as terrorists in the past by New Delhi. Nonetheless, Faisal said there were certain disappointments such as the slow pace of peace process that ought to be accelerated. He said people in both Pakistan and India had certain expectations from the peace process but Indian response could not be termed as encouraging on eight items of composite dialogue agenda including the core issue of Kashmir.