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Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak pullout potshot for Kashmir
- For second time, Musharraf links success of peace process to progress in border talks

Islamabad, March 31: President Pervez Musharraf has cautioned that Indian inflexibility on major issues or side-stepping Kashmir could derail the peace process.

“I will be out of this process if there is no progress in the talks,” Musharraf told a gathering of intellectuals and journalists yesterday.

Referring to a proposed meeting between foreign ministers Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and Yashwant Sinha in July-August in Delhi, he, however, hoped the talks would set the stage for the peace process to move further. “I believe that progress on confidence-building and Kashmir should be simultaneous.”

For Musharraf, change of mindsets on both sides was indispensable to arrive at a solution acceptable to all the three parties (Pakistan, India and Kashmir). “Sticking to a stated position could derail the process,” the President said.

This is the second time in a month that Musharraf has linked the success of the peace process with a forward movement on Kashmir. Musharraf’s remarks highlighting the centrality of Kashmir earlier this month at a conclave had sparked confusion in Delhi as many had misconstrued the statement as “undoing the progress achieved so far”.

“I have informed the Indian leadership and the western powers that if talks on Kashmir were not moved forward within the set time frame, there would be no use of continuing the dialogue,” Musharraf said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan, however sweet-quoted Musharraf’s remarks by saying: “He (the President) had in fact called for a meaningful dialogue, resulting into progress on settlement of Kashmir issue. This is, however, incorrect to say that Musharraf gave a deadline on Kashmir.” The president has underscored the need for progress on Kashmir, Khan added.

Reuters adds: Analysts said Musharraf’s comments were aimed at not only forcing the Kashmir dispute onto the talks agenda but also assuring domestic critics he was not selling out on the emotive issue.

The analysts said it would be difficult for Pakistan to sustain talks with India without some sign of progress on Kashmir and Musharraf was putting pressure on Delhi to get serious.

“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 Pakistan’s 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.

“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 very big 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.”

Gestures India could make might include releasing prisoners, reducing the number of troops in Kashmir or getting substantive talks going with political separatist groups, Mahmud said.

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