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Musharraf's statements must be tested: Bhutto

December 13, 2003 14:14 IST
Last Updated: December 13, 2003 17:19 IST

Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Saturday gave Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee the credit for pursuing peace with Pakistan despite the failure of the Agra Summit and said President Pervez Musharraf's statements for normalisation of ties with India "must be put to the test."

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Speaking at a conference on 'Peace Dividend -- Progress for India and South Asia', organised in New Delhi by Hindustan Times newspaper, Bhutto said Vajpayee has indicated that his upcoming visit to Islamabad will include meetings with "everyone."

"This is just as well, as the Pakistani premier's position is presently ceremonial and will remain so until power is transferred to Parliament," Bhutto, who was dismissed as prime minister in 1996, said.

Bhutto pointed out all three wars between the two countries had taken place under military dictatorships.

The Pakistan People's Party leader hoped that the current ceasefire between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control will be followed by greater travel links between the two countries as well as talks on how to lessen violence and use of force in the area.

She also hoped that another ceasefire between the militants and the Indian Army will be reached. "The lessening of violence in the Valley can be caliberated to the reduction of Indian troops in the area giving a greater sense of security to the Kashmiri people as well as bolstering Indo-Pak relations."

Bhutto described as "innovative" Vajpayee government's invitation to the Hurriyat Conference for unconditional talks, saying that the grouping has an "important" role to play in facilitating peaceful conditions.

Recalling that she had to think "long and hard" about whether to accept the invitation from Hindustan Times, Bhutto said: "In the end I decided to attend. I did this because the threat of a conflict in South Asia ending up in the first
nuclear war since Hiroshima is real. The determination to make a contribution to avoid this nuclear nightmare far outweighed other arguments that could have crossed my mind."

Lauding New Delhi for not not making violent incidents within Kashmir an excuse to reject Pakistan's ceasefire proposal, Bhutto, who was a witness to the historic Simla Agreement and had signed the nuclear confidence building
treaty with Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, said the Indo-Pak leadership will need to discuss next month how to have borders that were soft and also safe.

Asserting that vigilance must be maintained as militants "would do their best" to undermine the prospects of a breakthrough, she said: "They (militants) believe that without violence there will be no settlement of the Jammu and
Kashmir issue."

Bhutto said the renewed contacts between India and Paksitan are taking place against the backdrop of statements by key officials in Washington and in London.

Bhutto said there are many who believe that in the context of Indo-Pak relations, tension can only be reduced when both countries are true democracies.

"I am one of those who believe that democracies do not go to war against other democracies. I say this on the basis of
Indo-Pak history," she said.


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