Musharraf offers talks on Kashmir, no-war pact

ISLAMABAD, Aug 3 (APP): Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf Wednesday offered India to resume dialogue to resolve long-running Kashmir dispute and to make a no-war pact with Pakistan. "I am for no-war pact between India and Pakistan. So let India come forward. I am for resolving this dispute of Kashmir. Let India come forward," the Chief Executive said in his interview on BBC’s Live Programme ‘Talking Points’ on internet. The Chief Executive in an hour-long interview responded to questions addressed to him by videophone and e-mails from across the world including Pakistan, India, United States, Malaysia and Canada. He repeated his call for holding dialogue with India "anywhere, at any place and at any level."

"I am for talking to at any place to any leadership of India. So I am offering all kinds of peace initiatives. The ball is in India’s court." Responding to a question, he said in categorical terms that Pakistan government had no role in the ceasefire offer made by Hizbul Mujahideen. "This is an indigenous effort that is going on. A decision has been taken by Hizbul Mujahideen. One sees window of opportunity in whatever is happening around. It is up to India and Pakistan together to take this opportunity and initiate the process of dialogue towards a resolution of this longstanding dispute." In response to another question whether Pakistan supports ceasefire, he said, "Certainly, an opportunity is there. I wouldn’t like to comment on whether we support the ceasefire or not. An opportunity has been created and we must make use of it because I don’t think it is going to last forever." Asked whether Pakistan would use its moral and political influence with other Kashmiri freedom fighters’ groups to join ceasefire offer of Hizbul Mujahideen, he said, "there has to be reciprocity (from India). As I said it is not a one-way traffic going on." "There has to be an initiation of dialogue. There has to be reduction in Indian forces (in held Kashmir).

There has to be reduction in atrocities. And then this reciprocity will certainly encourage anyone else there to join bandwagon. However, after initiation of dialogue there has to be progress towards peaceful resolution." He said at the moment there is lack of sincerity on the part of India to hold tripartite talks. "Look at the rhetoric from the other side. Look at the (Indian) Prime Minister’s comments. He is talking only to Hizbul Mujahideen. He is talking of keeping the Kashmir issue within the Indian constitution." He added: "Therefore, the sincerity of purpose vis-a-vis resolving this issue on tripartite basis between Pakistan, India and Kashmir which is the method of resolving it is not being seen at all." Asked about the allegations of puppet Chief Minister of held Kashmir that Pakistan was behind the recent killings in held Kashmir, the Chief Executive said, "not at all. This has been the trend in the past when we think of Bagwanpura killings of civilian Sikhs at that time also Pakistan was being blamed. Every time Pakistan and ISI is blamed." "This has nothing to do with it. It has its own internal dynamics.

We certainly condemn the killings but there is no involvement, whatsoever, of Pakistan." Taking a question from an Indian citizen, he said, "in 1948 the Indian armed forces entered Kashmir. In 1965, the Run of Kutch operation was initiated by India. In 1971, the Indian forces attacked East Pakistan that was part of Pakistan. They came across the border and attacked Pakistan. In Siachin, in 1984, Indian forces entered in our area and attacked Siachin." "It’s always been India who has been on the offensive," he said adding, "it is Indian actions historically that have led to this kind of tension between India and Pakistan." "Let’s forget about history. Let forget about past. I want peace and I agree with you to the extent when you say it is leading to economic problems on both sides on expenditure on armed forces. I am for reduction of armed forces." He disputed the contention of a questioner from India that New Delhi had no problems with any of its neighbours except with Islamabad. "India has problems with any and every country of South Asian region. It has a problem with Bangladesh. You should go and ask the people of Bangladesh. It certainly has the problem with the people of Sri Lanka. Go and ask the people of Sri Lanka. It has the problem with Nepal. Go and ask the people of Nepal." "So let’s not live in illusions on what India’s relationship with the neighbouring countries are.

I have always been saying that the problem in our region is that the biggest country of our region which is India is not tolerant. It acts as a bully against all smaller countries." Gen. Musharraf said India has to reconcile to the environment in the region and go for peace and economic development in the region. Replying to a question alleging that Pakistan appeared using the Kashmiri struggle as a means of distracting the people of Pakistan’s attention from their own misery and hardships, he said, "the requirement of the armed forces is to ensure the security of Pakistan and protect the sovereignty, honour and dignity of the nation, not because of Kashmir alone." "Kashmir is a disputed territory. It is the people of Kashmir who are involved there and it is in line with the vast majority of people in Pakistan that we give support to the people of Kashmir." He added: "our support in Kashmir is not the cause of our economic deprivation and the maintenance of the armed forces. And let me also tell you that our economy is suffering, not because of the armed forces, but because of our poor economic handling of Pakistan."

The Chief Executive rejected the "negative, pessimistic scenario" that Muslims would be driven out of India in case plebiscite is held in disputed Kashmir region. "I don’t think this scenario will happen. I don’t think that such a negative, pessimistic scenario will come about." In response to a question what mechanisms his Government has put in place to avoid an outright nuclear war between Pakistan and India, he said, "the only solution to ensure all of this is to bring about peace in the region. That is the guarantee against such dooms-day scenarios." "But other than that, if you’re talking about our nuclear systems of control we have evolved an excellent command and control system and our entire strategic assets have been brought under very effective command and control." He added: "we know that we will be able to handle our assets in a manner in accordance with the desires of the world and we are extremely responsible. I don’t think the situation would arise." Asked about the need that necessitated Pakistan to have nuclear devices, he said, "security of Pakistan is paramount - security in conventional forces and in non-conventional forces."

He said Pakistan did not start arms race. "The race in non-conventional field was started by India." He recalled that New Delhi started nuclear arms race in South Asia by exploding nuclear device in 1974. "They repeated it again and repeated it now (in 1998)." Gen. Musharraf said Pakistan was not in any arms race. "They are going ahead (in this race) by increasing their defence budget by 28 per cent. We haven’t done it at all. We are maintaining minimum deterrence level which can be affordable within our economy." Asked how does he feel to be one of the seven or eight leaders of the world who can launch nuclear weapons, "I feel responsible, I would say. I would like to feel very, very responsible. I am aware and conscious of this fact and therefore all my attempts (are) to avoid any such situation in future." Responding to a question of BBC’s Islamabad correspondent O.B. Jones, the Chief Executive said, "it is not situation of (nuclear) button as far as we are concerned.

It is not like the NATO and WARSAW pacts where all the devices were put on delivery system and were ready for action at all times. In response to a question, Chief Executive General Musharraf said India was developing its navy, airforce and army and also "now have gone into the unconventional field." "It is they who have entered into an area (of nuclear weapons) and they want to keep it expanding because of their own universal and international designs. They say themselves regional and international power. We are not doing it at all." "We are certainly maintaining minimum nuclear deterrence and it is upto India to reduce its expenditure also." "I am very sure security of Pakistan will not be threatened if we maintain our deterrence in the conventional and unconventional fields." "If you want to avoid entry into the unconventional area, the extreme and critical importance is to maintain (deterrence) in the conventional field. That is what we are doing and world should also know that."