Zardari’s comments on Kashmir not what he meant: Pakistan foreign secretary

October 24th, 2008 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafBeijing, Oct 24 (IANS) Nearly three weeks after President Asif Ali Zardari’s remarks describing militants in Jammu and Kashmir as terrorists, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Basheer Friday downplayed the comments that were seen in India as a reversal of Islamabad’s policy on Kashmir, even as he called for rooting out terrorism collectively. “What is attributed to him (Zardari) on terrorism is not what he meant. We have to look at the issue of violence and militancy wherever it is and whatever form it takes,” Basheer told reporters on the sidelines of the seventh summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in the Chinese capital.

“The definition of terrorism has not been spelt out satisfactorily. The question is how we can all work collectively to get rid of it. Pakistan is doing a lot,” Basheer stressed.

This is, however, not the first time Pakistan has officially denied Zardari’s remarks on Kashmir due to the fear of a backlash by hawks and anti-India groups in Pakistan who see insurgency in Kashmir as a “freedom struggle”.

In an interview to the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Zardari admitted that India is not a threat to his country and described the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir as terrorists, remarks made perhaps for the first time by a top Pakistani leader that was seen in New Delhi as a change in the stance of Pakistan on the crucial issue of terrorism.

“India has never been a threat to Pakistan. I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad,” he had told the newspaper.

Zardari spoke of the militant groups operating in Kashmir as “terrorists”, noting that former president Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called them “freedom fighters”.

Basheer was, however, cautious when asked about Pakistan’s reaction to the announcement of elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

“There have been some reactions locally and we are following that. You (India) are moving towards general elections and it is something we have nothing to say about at this point in time,” he said.

India welcomed Zardari’s statement, saying it had been “made, perhaps, for the first time by a top Pakistani leader which is in contrast with its earlier position of terming militants as jehadis”.

Top strategic experts in India also hailed Zardari’s remarks and interpreted it as a tectonic shift in Pakistan’s traditional position on Kashmir.

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