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We have an open mind on Kashmir, says PM
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New York, September 25
Describing his first meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as a “new beginning”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the next step will now be to look at the various options available to the two countries to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Talking to presspersons after his “historic” meeting with Mr Musharraf, Dr Singh said the issue of these “options” did figure in his one-hour one-to-one meeting with Mr Musharraf but they did not go into the details.

However, he did convey India’s willingness to discuss all options on Kashmir with an open mind. This issue will now be taken up at the subsequent meetings of the Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers of the two countries planned for later this year.

Underlining the importance of today’s meeting and the statement which he said was a significant step, Dr Singh explained the two sides had committed to taking the composite dialogue to a “logical conclusion.” For the first time, he said, they had a statement which conveys their determination to move ahead in a purposeful manner.

“The next stage will be to look at the pros and cons of these options,” Dr Singh explained. Official sources maintained that today’s meeting, which resulted in a joint statement, constituted a step forward as never before had the two countries agreed to take the dialogue to that level.

As of now, India’s firm and unequivocal position is that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of their country. Pakistan, on the other hand, has described the Kashmir dispute as “unfinished business”. The challenge before the two sides is to step back from these maximalist positions and find a middle path which will be acceptable to the domestic audience in both countries. Mr Musharraf has lately talked about the need to sit down and eliminate options which are unacceptable to both sides.

Clarifying that the issue of cross-border terrorism did come up in his discussion with Mr Musharraf , the Prime Minister said he had told the Pakistan President unambiguously that the starting point in their dialogue will be the commitment they gave in their January 6 statement that their territory will not be used by jehadi groups for terrorist attacks in India.

Mr Musharraf, according to the Prime Minister, appeared sincere about continuing with the composite dialogue and told him that he was “grossly misunderstood” in India as being unifocal. Their meeting was quite frank and there had been “easy flow of conversation” during their hour-long interaction, Dr Singh stated.

Although the Press conference dwelt largely on his morning meeting with the Pakistan President, there was a sprinkling of questions on domestic issues as well. Dr Singh was unfazed by the raging criticism back home about his visit to the New York Stock Exchange with his detractors describing him as a “salesman.”

“I am here to sell India” to explain what India is doing, Dr Singh said, stating that as Prime Minister it is his duty and obligation to promote India. As for the unending criticism from the Left leaders, Dr Singh maintained he had neither said nor done anything which they could object to. He said before he left for this trip, he had met Jyoti Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet over lunch and told them that he would be tell the world community about India needing foreign investments in infrastructure. They had raised no objections.


BJP misleading: Congress
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 25
The Congress today refuted the BJP charge that the “vital national interest” had been diluted in Indo-Pak joint statement in New York and it had no mention of cross-border terrorism.

AICC Media Department chairperson Girja Vyas told reporters here that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had categorically stated that the issue of terrorism did figure during his talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

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