Pranab meets Musharraf, discuss peace process

May 21st, 2008 - 4:04 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 21 (IANS) India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday called on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and discussed a host of bilateral issues, including Kashmir, while underlining New Delhi’s commitment to carry forward the peace process. Mukherjee, who called on Musharraf in the Cantonment town of Rawalpindi, conveyed India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism and stressed that the absence of terror and violence was essential for creating trust and taking forward the peace process, an Indian official said.

Musharraf is said to have conveyed his support for bolstering the peace processs with India, the source said.

Mukherjee, who will review the fourth round of composite dialogue with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi later in the day, also discussed Kashmir-specific confidence building measures (CBMs) and ways to continue the dialogue on the issue that has shadowed bilateral ties.

Musharraf had reportedly floated a four-point formula to resolve the Kashmir dispute that includes self-governance, withdrawal of Indian troops from Jammu and Kashmir and joint supervision of the two halves of Kashmir. The proposals were never made officially but were aired through the media.

Instead, India has advocated the creation of a soft border that will spur trade and travel between people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

The meeting with Musharraf - the first by an Indian minister since he was re-elected president and took off his army uniform in November - is considered crucial. He continues to be consulted by the present government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The civilian government consulted Musharraf two days before foreign secretaries of the two countries reviewed the composite dialogue between the two countries Tuesday.

After arriving in Islamabad on a two-day visit Tuesday, Mukherjee had stressed the need for “a new democratic environment of great promise” but has conveyed in the same breath that the future of the engagement will depend on “an atmosphere free from terrorism and violence”.

Mukherjee, who will call on Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani later in the day, Tuesday met PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, whose party leads the ruling coalition, former prime minister and chief of Pakistan’s Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif, and Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of Awami National Party and an active supporter for rapprochement with India.

In their discussions with Mukherjee, the three leaders underlined strong political will in Pakistan on strengthening relations with India, an Indian official said.

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