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Ground covered for agreement on Kashmir: Kasuri
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Coverage: India-Pakistan Peace Process
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April 20, 2007 11:56 IST

Pakistan and India are moving towards the settlement of the Kashmir issue that might not be the first choice for all the three parties, including the Kashmiris, Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri has claimed.

'The two countries are moving towards a settlement of the Kashmir issue that might not be the first best choice for all the three parties (India, Pakistan and Kasmiris) but it could be the second best', he was quoted as saying by Pakistan daily The Nation, on Friday.

'A lot of ground has been covered for an agreement on Kashmir and some areas of differences are being sorted out', he said, adding certain steps are needed to create a conducive environment so that the two governments could sell the 'package to the people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir'.

He, however, expressed his inability to give the exact details owing to sensitivity of the matter.

The Kashmir package, once finalised, would be presented before the Pakistani parliament for approval.

However, if it was not approved by the Parliament it would not be acceptable to Pakistan, he said.

The Pakistan Foreign Minister also said that the progress made on the Kashmir package was irreversible and it did not matter whether the Musharraf government in Pakistan and that of Congress in India remained in power or not.

When asked about the likely time-frame for the settlement of Kashmir issue, the Pakistan Foreign Minister said the progress made so far was beyond the imagination.

"It also depends on the internal situation in the two countries as it is going to be an election year in Pakistan whereas in India polls are being held in some of the states," he added.

When asked about the steps being taken by the two governments to make the Kashmir package acceptable for the people of two countries, Kasuri said he would not give the details as in that case India could come up with objections.

Nonetheless, he said the two sides were not going for any secret deal and all they were doing was to avoid unnecessary opposition by some elements on both sides before the finalisation of the vital pact.

To a question on possible UN role in the Kashmir resolution plan, Kasuri declined to respond.

When asked about the role of mujahideen, he said President Musharraf had given a statement regarding Pakistan's influence on militants but it was grossly misunderstood.

Musharraf had said that Pakistan could use its influence on militants to persuade them to give up militancy.

To a question, Kasuri said contrary to the general perception progress had been made by the two countries since the commencement of peace process in January 2004.

He said that the two sides were engaged in talks on the resolution of bilateral disputes at both the formal and informal level.

Realisation had emerged on both sides of the border that war could not bring a solution to Kashmir or any other issue on the composite dialogue agenda.

On the Siachen issue, Kasuri said the proposals given by Pakistan for the settlement of contentious matter served the interests of both countries. He said the troops' positions on both sides could be determined with the help of satellite.

India's political leadership is in 'favour' of a negotiated settlement to Siachen issue but some statements by Indian defense authorities in this regard are 'surprising', Kasuri said while denying media reports that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Pakistan was linked to the solution of Siachen or Sir Creek issue.

However, he added that it was going to be a high profile visit and hence there should be an agreement on any one of the major issues between the two sides.

The newspaper also quoted a senior Pakistani official as saying that the proposed package bears resemblance to President Pervez Musharraf's four-point Kashmir plan seeking self-rule for Kashmiris, demilitarisation of the disputed territory, free movement across the Line of Control and joint management by Pakistan and India.

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