The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singh short shrift to Pervez proposal

The Hague, Nov. 8: In an unusually strong statement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today dismissed out of hand a suggestion for the demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir.

He refused to be drawn into any discussion on demilitarisation, saying the deployment of the Indian Army on Indian territory was not open for deliberation with outsiders.

In a joint media interaction with the president of the European Council and Netherlands Prime Minister, Jan Peter Belkenende, and European Commission president Romano Prodi, Singh took an unequivocal stand on the status of Jammu and Kashmir.

'You must recognise that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. The deployment of the Indian Army in any part of India is not something for discussion with outside agencies,' Singh said in response to a question.

This was as close as the Prime Minister was willing to come to engage with one of the substantive components of the proposal of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf for a region-wise demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir. Commenting on the proposal to divide the state into 'seven regions' and demilitarising them in order to change the status of each one, Singh said India did not consider it a proposal at all.

'When we receive it officially, we will react in an appropriate manner,' he said.

Singh preferred to go back to the basics ' telling Pakistan to stop supporting those engaged in terrorist activities against India and only then hope for a dialogue. He recalled the statement issued by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf in January 2004 in Islamabad in this regard.

What is significant is that in a joint statement issued after the India-EU summit meeting, the European Union also called for adhering to the same Islamabad statement to create a conducive atmosphere for the composite dialogue.

The EU thus welcomed 'the positive evolution of the relationship between India and Pakistan' but hoped for its 'consolidation' in an atmosphere 'free from the menace of terrorism and violence, in accordance with the joint press statement of January 6, 2004'.

This statement, considered the first new formulation of India-Pakistan relations since the Simla Agreement of 1971, enjoins Pakistan to stop all terrorist activity in areas under its control.

It was this statement, Singh recalled, which had made restarting the composite dialogue possible. The Prime Minister said: 'When I met President Musharraf in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, we reiterated our commitment to move forward the dialogue. So long as Pakistan adheres to its January 2004 commitment, we will discuss all outstanding issues with it, including Jammu and Kashmir.'

Prime Minister Belkenende of the Netherlands that has the EU presidency at present, said Kashmir had figured in the summit meeting this morning. He said: 'We welcome and encourage India's efforts to hold a broad-based dialogue with the stakeholders in Kashmir and India's attempts at development in Kashmir.'

The EU also indicated its support for India's efforts to situate its relationship with Pakistan in the broader framework of regional co-operation in South Asia. 'We share the view that improved relations between India and Pakistan and closer regional integration in South Asia will be mutually reinforcing,' the statement said.

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