15 March 2004

Delhi is not amused with Pervez move

15 March 2004
The Times of India

Delhi is not amused with Pervez move

By Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: The election season is finally beginning to have its impact on diplomacy with India on Sunday revisiting the Kashmir as ‘core issue’ controversy by disputing Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf ’s contention — made on Saturday night at the India Today conclave - that the January 6 joint India-Pakistan statement gave primacy to the Kashmir question.

“We have carefully examined the comments” made by Musharraf, the external affairs ministry said in a statement. “The language of the January 6 Islamabad Joint Press Statement is clear and unambiguous. There is no reference to any so-called central or core issue, but to addressing all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.”

The MEA added that “any unilateral interpretation of the Joint Press Statement is not conducive to building trust, or taking the process forward; nor is public rhetoric, which is also contrary to the understandings and restraints observed since January”.

Musharraf ’s remarks, and India’s reactions to them, underline the dangers inherent in diplomacy being conducted through television before a live audience. Aware that his remarks — and the question and answer session with a gathering of elite Indians — were being seen live in his own country, the Pakistani president doggedly stuck to his guns on the Kashmir issue and said it was India which had made all the concessions. But precisely because his performance was seen live on Indian TV, the Vajpayee government feels compelled to try and set the record straight.

This minor spat couldn’t have been better timed for US secretary of state Colin Powell, who arrives in South Asia on Monday to push along, besides other things, the India-Pakistan peace process.

India also chided Musharraf for “double standards” in describing the attack on his own life as “terrorism” but the ongoing incidents of violence in Kashmir as a “freedom fight”.

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