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'Indo-Pak ties would be better if Gandhi were alive today'

Suman Guha Mozumder in Washington DC | July 27, 2003 18:19 IST

Sardar Abdul Qayyum, former prime minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, believes Indo-Pak ties would have been much better if Mahatma Gandhi were alive today.

"There has been no human being like him," Qayyum told rediff.com on the sidelines of the just concluded International Kashmir Peace Conference in Capitol Hill in Washington.

"The new generation does not know much about him (Gandhi). But people of my generation cannot forget him," Qayyum said.

"(While addressing the convention) I became emotional when I saw his grandson Rajmohan Gandhi," he said.

Rajmohan Gandhi, professor of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, Illinois, also addressed the two-day conference organized by the Kashmiri American Council.

Qayyum said the Kashmiris should be taken into confidence in any talks between India and Pakistan, but does not see the need for United States mediation.

"If we can solve the problem ourselves, I do not see the need for a third party," he said adding, "The third party has found India and Pakistan a most attractive market for selling its arms. They are enjoying it. Why should they want a settlement between our two countries?"

He has told his American friends to leave the situation to India and Pakistan.

"I told them that if you try to boost one party or the other, it creates problems," Qayyum said.

"By amicable and friendly behaviour, we (India and Pakistan) can certainly find a way forward," Qayyum said.

In the past, Indo-Pak talks have been overtaken by sudden developments and situations that have diverted the whole process. "I wish this does not happen again. If this process continues it will lead to results," he said referring to informal discussions at the convention.

Qayyum believes that if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had 'a free hand', India and Pakistan would have made a lot of progress in terms of improving bilateral relations.

"If he had come to Lahore having called a ceasefire, which he did later on, the entire scenario would have been different. We would have moved miles ahead," Qayyum said.

The veteran politician claimed that (Pakistan) President General Pervez Musharraf's hands are not tied.

"The recent upsurge of religious elements might have created some difficulty for him, but as far as Kashmir and bilateral relations are concerned, he is very clear in his mind," he said.

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