| A jawan stands guard as a boy watches a Muharram procession in Srinagar on Sunday. (Reuters)
Muzaffarabad, Feb. 5: Cutting out the usual Kashmir Solidarity Day rhetoric, President Pervez Musharraf today exhorted India to show more courage and sincerity if it wished to see the stalemate over the disputed state broken.
“Pakistan will not be found wanting if India shows sincerity and reciprocity towards finding a just solution to the longstanding dispute,” Musharraf told a large crowd that had gathered in the capital of Pakistan Kashmir to mark the occasion, observed under official patronage every year.
The general’s comments contrasted sharply with what he had told Kashmiris the same day six years ago.
Then, he had defended the militancy as an “indigenous struggle for the right of self-determination” and vowed to continue supporting it.
Today, he reiterated part of what he had then said, declaring: “Kashmir runs in my blood and I promise you I will make efforts to find a durable solution to it.” But his tone was clearly more conciliatory as he spoke of the “improved ties with India”.
The October 8 earthquake had provided both countries with an opportunity to move forward on Kashmir, Musharraf said. “Now is the time and the leadership should make use of the opportunity and move towards a solution of the Kashmir dispute. If they (India) take a step, we will also move forward.”
Musharraf repeated his proposals of self-governance and demilitarisation as a way towards the resolution of the standoff.
“I hope that (the) Indian leadership will give a serious thought to these proposals as it is not only in the interests of Pakistan and the Kashmiri people but also in the interest of India, its people and the South Asian region as a whole.”
The general welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent comment that the neighbours should look for a pragmatic and peaceful solution to Kashmir.
He expressed solidarity with the tens of thousands of people left homeless by the October quake in this city. Most buildings have crumbled to rubble here, as well as in Bagh district and at Balakot, a small city in northern Pakistan that happened to be on the fault-line and close to the epicentre.
Kashmir Solidarity Day was also observed by religion-based political parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami as well as the United Jehad Council ' an association of 16 Kashmiri militant outfits ' with the usual reiteration of their resolve to “liberate Kashmir”.