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Delhi ‘flexibility’ sermon to Pakistan

New Delhi, July 24: India today told Pakistan that its desire for peace should not be taken to mean it can be pushed around.

It also reminded its western neighbour that meaningful progress in ongoing talks can only be made in an atmosphere free of violence and terrorism.

Drawing the parameters of the talks, India also said it was willing to discuss Jammu and Kashmir along with other issues, but would not accept any “artificial time frame” for resolving the decades-old dispute.

Pakistan yesterday said President Pervez Musharraf had, during a meeting with foreign minister Natwar Singh, made it clear that Kashmir needed to be resolved within a “reasonable time frame”.

But sources here said the foreign minister told Musharraf: “Flexibility also means flexibility on time.”

This meant that India wanted the President, who has been calling for flexibility from both sides on Kashmir, not to press for a time frame.

Delhi argues Kashmir is a complex problem and does not lend itself to quick-fix solutions.

The Indian establishment is not willing to conclude that Pakistan’s statement after the Musharraf-Singh talks indicates its desire to break away from the peace process.

It is being seen largely as an attempt by Musharraf to assure his “core constituency” – the army generals – that he is not diluting their stated position on Kashmir.

By coming up with a quick and tough response, India wants to let Pakistan know unambiguously how it views the dialogue process.

There are sections in Pakistan which believe that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s desire to ensure the peace process begun by the previous A.B. Vajpayee government is not derailed will ensure that Islamabad is accommodated.

But India’s statement today has proved them wrong.

Delhi has expressed surprise and anger at the failure of the Pakistani statement yesterday to reflect the “comprehensive talks” Musharraf and Singh had in Rawalpindi yesterday.

India has said stopping cross-border infiltration and violence and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure are essential if talks are to make headway.

Sources said the Pakistani statement failed to convey Islamabad’s acknowledgement of the need to do this.

The Pakistani declaration also said India needed to take steps to satisfy the “comfort level” of the Kashmiris.

But sources here said Islamabad’s sudden urgency to resolve the Kashmir dispute within a “ reasonable timeframe” was totally absent between 1972 and 1989. Kashmir returned to the centrestage only after Islamabad managed to put in place the apparatus for cross-border-terrorism in the state.

Sources also say it is Islamabad that has neglected the wishes of Kashmiris and those Indians and Pakistanis who desire peace.

They added that Islamabad’s support for cross-border terrorism and its attempts to subvert the electoral process in the Northern Areas and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were further examples of its total disregard for Kashmiris.

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