Kashmir back in focus in India-Pakistan talks after Bush’s remarks

May 19th, 2008 - 7:56 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Manish Chand
Islamabad/New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Pakistan is expected to come up with new ideas on Kashmir in talks with India Tuesday even as US President George Bush is reported here as telling Pakistani leaders that the “issue is ripe for solution”. The “Kashmir issue is ripe for solution”, Bush was quoted as saying by Pakistani officials during his meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for the Middle East in Egypt.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government is evolving its own approach to the Kashmir issue, which is different from that of President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula revolving around phased withdrawal of troops from Jammu and Kashmir, local self-governance and a joint supervision involving the two halves of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan.

Some new ideas on Kashmir are likely to come up for discussions, a reliable source, privy to the thinking of the new democratic dispensation in Pakistan, told IANS.

The new government is keen to expand trade with India and thinks that the time for freer flow of business and investment has come, he said.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is likely to share with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee these proposals when the two hold talks here Wednesday, the source said.

During the talks, India is likely to underline its approach to Kashmir that entails expanding the flow of people and trade between the two halves of Kashmir to effectively make the LoC irrelevant.

India is set to propose new confidence-building measures (CBMs) during the talks that include the Kargil-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkot bus services, as well as an increase in the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and the Poonch-Rawalkot bus services.

Pakistan is slowly coming around to accepting the Indian approach. Kashmir-specific confidence-building measures (CBMs) like making the Line of Control (LoC) irrelevant will lead to the solution of the Kashmir issue, Shah Mehmood Qureshi told leaders from Kashmir here recently.

The Indian delegation will be led by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon in the first official engagement with the new democratically-elected government in Pakistan since it came to power in March.

The foreign secretary will hold meetings with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir to review the “Composite Dialogue” between the two countries. Four rounds of the dialogue that is an integral part of the peace process have already been held with the Musharraf regime, the last round being held in New Delhi 14 months ago. .

India has been watching the political drama unfolding in Pakistan with interest, but without showing favouritism for any political group.

“We do have a Pakistan policy, but we don’t have a policy that is for or against an individual,” government sources said.

Mukherjee is likely to have meetings with the PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif besides Prime Minister Gillani.

Mukherjee will also try to meet President Musharraf and former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, the sources said.

The talks between the two sides also take place in the wake of the serial bombings in Jaipur that killed 63 people and injured 200 others. The Indian side has also been saying that infiltration by militants across the Line of Control has been increasing.

India has not accused Pakistan for the blasts but it insists the talks can make meaningful progress only in an atmosphere that is “free from violence.” All outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism, will be discussed between the two sides that is being watched with greater interest in world capitals.

“We will raise all our concerns with the Pakistani side and also try to find what they have to say,” government sources said.

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