Wednesday, Aug 13, 2003
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By B. Muralidhar Reddy
The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, greeting the RJD leader, Laloo Prasad Yadav, in Islamabad on Tuesday.
In a 90-minute interactive session with a visiting delegation of Indian parliamentarians, strategic affairs experts and editors at the presidential office, he linked the ceasefire proposal to similar gestures from India in the Valley.
Though there is nothing new in the proposals, it is for the first time in recent years that Islamabad has so explicitly linked its willingness to enforce a ceasefire along the LoC to conditions in the Valley as it perceives them.
Gen. Musharraf offered once again contingent on Indian reciprocity to "facilitate" a truce in Jammu and Kashmir if India stopped "atrocities" in the State. "If India stops atrocities, human rights violations, releases political prisoners and creates an atmosphere, then, may be, we can facilitate a ceasefire (in Kashmir)."
The Indian delegation is now here on a four-day trip in connection with a two-day conference organised by the South Asia Free Media Association part of the track-II efforts to give a fillip to the Vajpayee peace initiative. The former Bihar Chief Minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and the Chairman of the Kashmir Committee, Ram Jethmalani, are among the 50 or so delegates who interacted with Gen. Musharraf.
The delegates were impressed with the "candid manner" in which Gen, Musharraf held forth covering all aspects of India-Pakistan issues.
However, they came out with the impression that while the General was in total command of the state of affairs in Pakistan, there was little change in his attitude on all contentious issues between New Delhi and Islamabad.
A senior parliamentarian well versed in India-Pakistan affairs said that Gen. Musharraf's proposal was a non-starter. "By seeking a reciprocal ceasefire in the Valley what Gen. Musharraf in effect is telling India is to give up its commitment to the international community on fighting terrorism," he said.
The MP pointed out that by offering a ceasefire along the LoC, Gen. Musharraf had shown that his regime was capable of reining in the militants trying to sneak across.
"The ceasefire offer has no meaning if the Pakistani establishment throws up its hands and maintains that desperate elements crossing over are beyond its control."
According to a member of the delegation, a suggestion was made to Gen. Musharraf to remove the impression from the minds of Pakistanis that India was not willing to talk on Kashmir.
"He was told that since Shimla India has always said it is ready to engage in a dialogue that includes the issue of Kashmir but Pakistan has sought to undermine this position. However there was no response from the General to the suggestion."
On the developments inside Kashmir, Gen. Musharraf stuck to the theme that what was happening in the State was a "freedom struggle" that was not under Islamabad's control. "It is not possible to be done from here because we don't have a whistle which we blow from here and things start happening in Kashmir."
On the ceasefire along the LoC, he said it could be achieved "even today if both sides agree".
To a specific question from a delegate on whether he could guarantee that there would be no more Kargils he said India should forget Kargil, maintaining that both countries "have hurt each other. There should not be a repeat of this. We should work for future peace".
He asserted that such an operation in the future was unthinkable because "I am talking of ceasefire. There is no point in going back in past. We have had a bitter history. If you talk of Kargil, I would talk of Siachen and so on and so forth."
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