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President Pervez Musharraf on Monday said that Pakistan was taking a bilateral approach with India over the Kashmir issue. He also expressed hope that good sense will prevail on both sides to resolve the festering dispute amicably.
Describing Kashmir and Palestinian issues as old disputes, Musharraf told teachers and students at the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing that as far as Pakistan was concerned, "we are going on a bilateral approach with India".
"We hope that good sense prevails on both sides to resolve this long standing dispute amicably between our two countries for the benefit of people of these two countries," Musharraf, who is on a six-day visit to China, said.
Pakistan has traditionally been insisting on third party mediation on the Kashmir issue, a demand rejected by India, which wants it to be dealt bilaterally.
But Asif Ali Zardari, chairman of Pakistan People's Party that leads the ruling coalition, had said recently that the ties between the two countries should not be held hostage to the Kashmir issue, which should be left for future generations to resolve.
Pakistan's new Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had also said that his government will not shy away from taking a different approach on the Kashmir issue and stressed on promoting bilateral trade.
Musharraf made a reference to Kashmir twice in his speech while reviewing the international scene in the last 60 years, noting that the world was now moving towards multi-polarity.
"The old disputes have festered. I call old disputes.. the Palestinian dispute.. the Kashmir dispute," he said.
Speaking about dangers to peace and development, Musharraf said unresolved political disputes led to terrorism and extremism. "Palestine is at the core of this," he said and sought its early resolution.
Musharraf said as part of joint efforts towards peace and harmony, principles of the UN Charter should be upheld and the world body made more potent.
But, he opposed increasing the number of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
"That will increase areas of privileges.. sources of privilege. We would rather prefer increasing the number of non-permanent members so that the UNSC becomes more representative and not centres of privileges and more people becoming more equal than the others".
Musharraf also mentioned Kashmir in his remarks while referring to the period between 1979-89, which saw the defeat of erstwhile Soviet Union in the Afghan war and USSR's subsequent disintegration, thereby ending the cold war era.
He said terrorism and extremism took birth in the region because of the vacuum that was left after 1989. During this period of 12 years, as a result of the vacuum and as a result of internecine fighting in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and Taliban, terrorism and extremism have all erupted.
"As far as Pakistan is concerned, the Indo-Pakistan conflict in the world.. the Kashmir struggle started in 1989... the freedom struggle in Kashmir," Musharraf said.
Speaking about the dangers to peace and development, Musharraf said unresolved political disputes led to terrorism and extremism. "Palestine is at the core of this," he said.
"We need to resolve all political disputes with justice," Musharraf said, referring to the Palestine issue. "New approaches and new actors" were required to resolve the Palestine issue, he said and suggested roles for China, the European Union and non-Arabic Muslim world, including Pakistan into it.
Musharraf said as part of joint efforts towards peace and harmony, principles of the UN Charter should be upheld and the world body made "more potent". But, he said, it could
not be made more potent by increasing the number of permanent members of the UN Security Council.
"That will increase areas of privileges..... We would rather prefer increasing the number of non-permanent members so that the UNSC becomes more representative of the people of the world and not centres of privileges and more people becoming more equal than the others," he said.
On the Afghanistan crisis, he said it needed a multi-track approach, including political and social factors, and not just military alone.
Musharraf said friendship with China had been the bedrock of Pakistan's foreign policy and "it has always been so and will remain so. China is a time tested, all weather friend'.
"This relationship goes far beyond governments. Leaders may come and go. Governments may come and go. But our friendship permeates to the people's level. Therefore, it will remain permanent," he said.
Musharraf called the wonderful China-Pakistan relationship a living example of harmony, though both nations had different political and cultural backgrounds.
Emphasising that both countries had total understanding on all international and regional issues, Musharraf called for stepping up the bilateral trade, noting that the target for 2011 had been set at US$ 15 billion.
"We need to cooperate strongly in defence also," he said while noting that the fundamentals of China-Pakistan friendship were strong and their strategic relationship needed to be extended.
Musharraf said the Pakistan government had taken all measures for the security of the Olympics torch relay.
The environment in Pakistan was such that not even one man would do anything against it but the measures had been taken to ensure that "some infiltration by some elements" would not succeed, he said.
He said he strongly condemned disruptions of the torch relay, saying politics must be kept out of sports. "Otherwise, the whole idea of sports is killed," Musharraf said
Pakistan considered Tibet an inalienable part of China and "any attempts by anyone to disrupt and create ill will is condemned by Pakistan," he said.
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