Musharraf Says Time is Ripe for Peace in Kashmir


Date: 02-17-2006

The East-West Wire is a news service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any part or all of this report may be used by media with attribution to the author or East-West Center. For more information, contact John Lewis at (808) 944-7204 or eastwestwire@eastwestcenter.org.

Note to Editors: This story was filed by Susan Kreifels, East-West Center media activities coordinator, who is traveling with the Jefferson Fellows.

HONOLULU (Feb. 17) - Addressing the issue of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf told a group of 13 international journalists earlier this week "I feel Kashmir is ripe for resolution. The people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir want peace. The earthquake brought us closer together."

While the president said that resolving the conflict was a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India, Musharraf sees the United States as a facilitator, "coaxing both sides" toward resolution. He said he would pass this message to U.S. President George W. Bush when he visits Pakistan next month.

India's stance on the Kashmir question has long been that a solution can only be found through bilateral negotiations between the two South Asia nuclear nations.

Musharraf met with the American and Asia Pacific journalists, all traveling on the Honolulu-based East-West Center's Jefferson Fellowships, for an hour at the army chief's headquarters in Rawalpindi near the capital city of Islamabad.

On the topic of terror, Pakistan's president told the journalists that he sees a difference between terrorism and what he termed "extremism." While terrorism can be fought with military force, "extremism is a state of mind" that requires a different strategy.

Asked about the Jan. 13 U.S. missile strikes on a Pakistani border village in the tribal region near the Afghan border in which 13 civilians died, Musharraf said he saw the attack as a "violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan."

When asked if he thought the U.S. strikes aimed at al-Qaida's number two Ayman al-Zawahri were justified, Pakistan's president said there were many aspects to consider. One of those was the presence of foreigners in the village. "Foreigners were there. They are also violating our sovereignty ... We want them out."

Islamabad filed a diplomatic protest with Washington over the incident but Musharraf said he was satisfied with President Bush's response. He continued, "cooperation will continue as before. I am satisfied with U.S. assurances" this won't happen again.

Regarding demonstrations and controversy over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the president said he could not understand how anyone could "take the excuse of freedom of the press to hurt the feelings of such a large population of the world. This is stretching freedom of the press to the limits."

For more news from Pakistan link to President Musharraf's website at http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/NewsEvents.aspx


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