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Get over Kashmir itch, Sibal tells Musharraf
Aziz Haniffa in New York |
September 23, 2003 10:17 IST
Last Updated: September 23, 2003 20:26 IST
The war of words between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue continued in New York with Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal asking Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to get over the 'Kashmir itch'.
The immediate provocation for Sibal's broadside against Musharraf was the Pakistani ruler's contention at a conference, attended by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan among others, that Jammu and Kashmir was witnessing a 'freedom struggle'.
Complete coverage of Vajpayee's visit
Musharraf, in interviews to the New York Times and several other news agencies, had also expressed his disappointment at India's reticence toward dialogue on Kashmir.
Asked why India was not present at the conference attended by more than 20 world leaders and influential US lawmaker and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Richard Lugar, Sibal told rediff.com: "Well it is not necessary for us to be present at every conference anywhere in the world on the issue of terrorism, and also we have to look at what company we keep."
"But since you raised the subject," he added, "I did see the speech made by General Musharraf."
The Pakistani president, apart from describing the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir as a 'legitimate freedom struggle', called on the international community to pressure India to 'end its repression in Kashmir and resume a dialogue with Pakistan'
Musharraf's statements are against the spirit of the olive branch extended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and spoil the atmosphere for dialogue, Sibal said.
Vajpayee had taken 'concrete steps' irrespective of 'Pakistan's lack of performance with regard to terrorism', he added.
Referring to the 'Kashmir itch' of Pakistan, Sibal said, "Before the annual UN pilgrimage it would be a good idea for the Pakistani leadership to do some fasting when it comes to pronouncements on Kashmir."
Musharraf at the conference had called 'state terrorism' as terror's most deadly form. "State terrorism targets people from seeking freedom from foreign occupation. Those who are committing state terrorism against occupied peoples often depict their legitimate movements for self-determination as terrorism," he said.
The Pakistan leader argued until India implements the Security Council resolution granting the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir and 'stop the violent suppression of the people they have the legitimate right to resist Indian occupation'.
"Equating this freedom struggle with terrorism is a travesty," Musharraf declared.
Sibal also took exception to Musharraf's comments that Islamabad's efforts to foster a dialogue with New Delhi had received 'zero return from the Indian side'.
The Indian foreign secretary said Musharraf's contention 'flies in the face of actual facts'.
"If there has been zero return the problem is that because there has been zero investment by Pakistan," Sibal said. "Pakistan has exhausted all its capital in promoting terrorism and what they should be getting are negative returns."
"But if they were to really invest in peace by abjuring terrorism they'll get the return they expect by way of a dialogue," he added.
In terms of meetings, Vajpayee met Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and New York Governor George Pataki. Pataki who paid the prime minister a courtesy call said he would soon lead a trade delegation to India.
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin also called on Vajpayee to brief him about their activities in India and commitment to promote greater US-India understanding by using their clout and influence.
External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha held meetings with his Israeli, Filipino and Myanmar counterparts.
At the briefing by Sibal, US President George W Bush's exclusive interaction with India Abroad, a sister publication of rediff.com, also come up for discussion.
The US president had told India Abroad that he would love to have Indian troops in Iraq, but can understand the domestic compulsions of Vajpayee. Bush disclosed that he would take up the issue during his meeting with the Indian prime minister on September 24.
Asked why Bush intends to take up the issue if he understands the domestic compulsions of Vajpayee, Sibal said, "Iraq is a very important international issue and the entire international community is following very closely what is happening."
It would be surprising, he added, if Bush didn't bring up the issue of Iraq with the prime minister. "And it certainly interests our prime minister to hear what perspectives the United States has with regard to the situation in Iraq," he said.