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Aug deadline for Kashmir: Pervez

Aug deadline for Kashmir: Pervez

Author: Reuters
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: April 1, 2004
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_652902,001300270001.htm

Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf threatened to withdraw from the peace process if there was no progress on Kashmir by July or August.

"We have to move forward on Kashmir. We have to resolve it," he said on a state TV current affairs programme, aired here on Wednesday. "If we don't move forward, I am not in the process."

Musharraf's time-limit refers to when the Foreign Ministers of both countries are to meet to review the talks that were decided on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in January.

His comments were interpreted in Pakistan as an attempt to force the Kashmir issue squarely onto the agenda as the two countries embark on the talks. He was also seen as assuring domestic critics he was not selling out on the emotive issue.

"There is a school of thought that India would negotiate purposefully on trade and other issues, but just go through the motions on Kashmir," said former foreign secretary Tanvir Ahmed Khan.

"What he probably meant was he'd like to see some concrete results, that the issue of Kashmir gets firmly embedded in the forthcoming India-Pakistan dialogue," he said.

Officials from both sides held their first peace talks in nearly three years in February and agreed on a "basic roadmap" to resolve a range of disputes, including Kashmir.

Foreign secretaries are to meet in May or June to launch a "composite dialogue" and will discuss both Kashmir and measures to reduce the risk of nuclear and conventional war.

Officials from other ministries will meet in July to tackle a range of issues, including economic links. Foreign ministers will then meet in August to review overall progress.

"It is very important to Pakistan to show some results to the domestic audience, to show some progress," said Ershad Mahmud of the Institute of Policy Studies.

"It would be difficult for him to continue a fruitless process for a long time," he said, adding that popular support for the talks was fragile.

"There is enthusiasm among Pakistanis but it is superficial, it's not deep rooted. It will be short-lived unless we get some concrete gesture on Kashmir," he said.

Gestures India could make might include releasing prisoners or reducing forces in Kashmir, he said.

Musharraf told Reuters in December he was prepared to set aside Pakistan's decades-old demand for the UN-backed vote and meet India halfway in a bid for peace.


Why the K-word?

** US pressure to deliver Al Qaeda gives him excuse to seek forward movement on Kashmir

** Special ally - MNNA - status, lifting of sanctions have emboldened him to harp on Kashmir once a month

** Or perhaps he's just lacking in temperament; at the India Today conclave he spoke of "going back to square one"

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