The only possible solution to the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is to create a situation where the "lines while in existence" become "irrelevant", Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in an interview published on Sunday.
In a two-page interview given to journalist Mehr Tarar in New Delhi last month and published in Daily Times, Omar said that if former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had not got into a "scrap" with the Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in 2007, there was "every possibility" that both countries would have moved forward on the dispute.
"...if you were to create a situation wherein the lines while in existence but irrelevant, I think that is the only situation. Wherein if you start from Kashmir and then you widen it, we have this grand vision of a South Asian Free Trade Area which essentially would mirror what you have in the European Union," Omar is quoted as saying.
"But I believe that is the only way forward. The moment we get into territorial give-and-take we will get nowhere. We have not so far. The problem of Jammu and Kashmir has plagued our relations since 1947, and it will continue to plague our relations," he said.
Tarar has been at the centre of a controversy over an alleged affair with Union Minister Shashi Tharoor though both have denied being in a relationship. The issue took a dramatic turn after Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a Delhi hotel on January 17.
Omar said there were opportunities in the four-point formula proposed by Musharraf to resolve the Kashmir issue, including demilitarisation and softening of borders.
"Because for the first time he (Musharraf) stepped away from stated positions. I think what happens is that India and Pakistan’s relations are hostage to stated positions...The stated position is that both sides have to vacate the occupied part," he said.
"Now that is clearly not going to go anywhere. He (Musharraf) moved it from there; he said, look, leave that aside, we can have, sort of, no territorial give-and-take. The Line of Control can be irrelevant. You can have demilitarisation on both sides. You can have some sort of mechanism...," Omar said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too said on January 4 that the two sides were close to an "important breakthrough" on the Kashmir issue during Musharraf's regime.
Asked what in his view was the outline for a feasible settlement of the Kashmir issue, Omar said, "Look, stated positions will not get us anywhere, so leave that aside. And when you move away from stated positions, what are the options available to you? Can Pakistan surrender any of the territories it has right now? No, right?"
He said Prime Minister Singh has made it very clear that no Indian premier gets elected to surrender territory.
Referring to Musharraf, who is currently facing charges of high treason in Pakistan, Omar said the Indian side did not know how far they could trust him.
"We saw him through the prism of the Kargil War. While there was the overall history of Pakistan, there was his personal history," he said.
"I mean here was an army chief who did not come and meet a visiting Indian Prime Minister when Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee came with the bus to Lahore, and in turn, we fought a war in Kargil. So I think our assessment of Gen Musharraf was tainted by that."