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Pak shift in traditional policy, reactions in Kashmir

IRNA

Srinagar, Dec 24, IRNA -- Barely a month after the United Nations had 
passed yet another resolution supporting the right of self 
determination of the nations, Pakistan offered to drop a 50-year-old 
demand for an UN-mandated plebiscite over Kashmir and to meet India 
"halfway" in a bid for peace in the subcontinent. 
Curious enough, president General Pervez Musharraf`s offer of 
alternatives on the demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir came a few days
after the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, said in 
New Delhi that plebiscite or referendum was the best option to settle 
the Kashmir issue. 
"I don`t think if there is any other way", Albright told a major 
international gathering in New Delhi, adding "Kashmir was one of the 
most dangerous and tragic places in the world and its people had 
suffered due to the tensions between India and Pakistan". 
Musharraf said in his interview that he was prepared to be "bold 
and flexible" in an attempt to resolve the dispute over Kashmir. "If 
we want to resolve this issue, both sides need to talk to each other 
with flexibility, coming beyond stated positions, meeting halfway 
somewhere. 
"We are prepared to rise to the occasion, India has to be flexible
also," he was quoted as saying. 
"We are for the United Nations Security Council Resolutions," he 
said and added "However, now we have left that aside." President 
Musharraf said this represented a "very real opportunity" to make 
peace, but warned India not to throw away the chance by continuing to 
spurn offers for talks. 
"The basis of everything, the basis of a reduction in militancy...
is moving forward on a process of dialogue," he said and added "If 
that political dialogue doesn`t come about, who wins and who loses? 
It is the moderates who lose and the extremists who win, and that is 
exactly what has been happening." 
President Musharraf refused to be drawn on how to settle the 
Kashmir dispute, but said any solution must be acceptable to 
Kashmiris. This represents a major shift in Pakistan`s traditional 
Kashmir policy. UN resolutions passed way back in 1948 gave Kashmiris 
choice only between India and Pakistan. Of late various government 
backed US think tanks have been proposing a solution covering only 5 
million Kashmiri speaking population, which is less than of half of 
the total population of undivided Jammu and Kashmir. 
Pakistanis have so far declined to outline the alternative 
proposals, saying only that President Musharraf would raise them with 
Indian leaders when "serious talks" are held. 
India and the rest of the world have hailed Musharraf`s new stand.
US and the EU leaders have been sending plaudits for what they 
describe as Musharraf`s `constructive intentions` to relinquish the 
half a century old demand for a referendum on the status of Kashmir. 
Western diplomats hoped that India and Pakistan would bolster the 
process of structured quiet diplomacy with a new determination of 
discussing at least four options to meet "halfway", by following an 
pproach on Kashmir acceptable to all stake holders. 
Sources told IRNA that Pakistani acquiescence to drop a 50-year- 
old demand for an UN-mandated plebiscite and meet India "halfway" in 
a bid for peace in the subcontinent, was first conveyed to Western 
capitals after Indian prime minister Vajpayee`s offer for peaceful 
dialogue which he made during his visit to Srinagar early this year. 
Through quiet diplomacy, Pakistan and India had been discussing 
several options to find out a workable solution to the Kashmiri issue,
which could be acceptable to Indian, Pakistan and Kashmiri people. 
"The world powers engaged in facilitating the process of dialogue 
between the two nuclear rivals in South Asia are expecting India to 
reciprocate positively and effectively to the Musharraf`s gesture by 
initiating an amendment in Indian constitution declaring Kashmir as 
a disputed territory by dropping Indian traditional stand that Kashmir
is an integral part of India", these reports quoted a Western diplomat
as saying. 
Meanwhile General Musharraf`s surprise gesture has evoked a mixed 
response in Kashmir. 
Talking to IRNA All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman, Maulana 
Muhammad Abbas Ansari, said India or Pakistan had no right to drop 
the UN resolutions on Kashmir. 
"Both the countries as also the international community are bound 
by their own commitment to implement the resolutions", he said adding 
it were only the people of Kashmir, and none else, who could abandon 
the UN resolutions. 
Nevertheless, Ansari said, according to the Hurriyat constitution,
if there was any problem in implementing the UN resolutions, the issue
has to be resolved through tripartite talks in which Kashmiri people 
would be a party. Any such talks would take into consideration the 
wishes of the Kashmiris. 
The chairman of the breakaway faction of the Hurriyat Conference, 
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, told IRNA that according to the conglomerate`s 
constitution, holding of plebiscite on the basis of the UN resolutions
was the first option. 
However, in view of the bitter fact that India had failed to 
implement these all these 55 years, the issue could be resolved 
through tripartite talks after India accepted the disputed nature of 
the issue and recognized Pakistan and Kashmiri people as the other 
two parties to it. 
Prominent separatist leader and president of the Democratic 
Freedom Party, Shabbir Ahmad Shah, welcomed the Pakistan president`s 
offer. 
Talking to IRNA, he said the ball was now in the Indian court. He 
hoped India would respond to the gesture in a positive manner to pave 
the way for the eventual resolution of the dispute. 
The vice-chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, 
Bashir Ahmad Bhat, said his group`s well known stand was for complete 
independence of Jammu and Kashmir. Though Gen Musharraf`s suggestion 
has not been discussed by the group, he said, it had to be accepted 
that Kashmiris were the principal party to the dispute and their urges
and aspirations should be given the first priority in any dialogue 
process. 
Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed too has welcomed the 
Pakistani gesture saying it will go a long way in helping foster a new
era of peace and tranquility in the region. 
/211 
End 



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