M A I N   N E W S

Musharraf put off by PM’s stance on Kashmir
Calls troop pullout ‘good optics’

Islamabad, November 19
Pakistan is "not encouraged" by the signals coming from India over their joint pledge to try solving their dispute over Kashmir, President Pervez Musharraf has said.

"The vibes that are now coming do not encourage a process of normalisation," Mr Musharraf said in an exclusive interview yesterday with AFP, just days ahead of peace talks between the neighbours' prime ministers in New Delhi. He accused India of failing to show flexibility.

"Certainly the vibes should be much better than this, that we are moving, that we want to...there ought to be a desire to move forward towards peace.

"While (from) there we get vibes in the opposite direction, they do not encourage peace."

Mr Musharraf was responding to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion on Wednesday that India's boundary cannot be redrawn.

Mr Musharraf, while commenting that he saw "light at the end of the tunnel" on October 25 at a Iftar dinner, suggested identifying seven regions on both sides of the LoC, demilitarise them and change their status through independence or joint control or under UN mandate to resolve Kashmir issue.

His suggestions came after talks with Dr Manmohan Singh in September in New York, where they discussed options for moving forward a peace dialogue started earlier this year.

Mr Musharraf said violence would only stop when peace dialogue moved forward.

"Certainly whoever is doing the violence, the freedom struggle, the people who are fighting for the freedom, will get encouraged and it will automatically reduce."

"Nothing is going from Pakistan. Everything is indigenous, it's happening inside Kashmir," the President claimed.

He gave a lukewarm welcome to the pullout of troops from Kashmir, suggesting it was a superficial step.

"These are good optics, but they are not striking at the strategic issue of moving forward on a resolution.

"If out of 600,000 or 700,000 troops, 40,000 troops are removed, well we welcome it, it's a step forward, but however it is a tactical step forward.'

Mr Musharraf also stressed that Pakistan would not drop its life-long demand for a plebiscite among Kashmiris unless India showed flexibility on its own long-held positions.

"We will be flexible, never unilateral. Pakistan will never leave its stand (on plebiscite), alone," he said.

"Why leave the plebiscite when the vibe on the other side is they don't want to move an inch beyond their stated position, that 'we are not moving an inch'? So we stand by our stated position...the plebiscite.

"We will only leave it if India is prepared to show flexibility....At the moment, no sir, we don't see that."

"I'm saying that there's light at the end of the tunnel. Should we put that light off?"

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will meet Singh next week in New Delhi to discuss peace measures and Kashmir. — AFP

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