B. Muralidhar Reddy

It just refers to the need for the resolution of disputes in South Asia

Historic opportunity for India, Pakistan: BushMusharraf, Manmohan are leaders of courage and vision

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-United States joint statement issued on Saturday avoids any reference to Kashmir but says that both sides support the resolution of disputes in the region.

When a correspondent sought to know from Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri as to why Kashmir did not even figure in it, he said U.S. President George Bush referred to the issue at his joint press stakeout with President Pervez Musharraf.

"There were so many subjects which figured in the course of the discussions but do not find a mention in the joint statement. The statement does talk about the need for resolution of disputes in South Asia," Mr. Kasuri said.

On the India-Pakistan peace process, the joint statement said, "Mr. Bush and Gen. Musharraf support the peace process and composite dialogue between Pakistan and India for improvement of relations and resolution of disputes and building a better future in South Asia."

In his remarks at a press conference, Mr. Bush said, "Pakistan and India now have an historic opportunity to work towards lasting peace. President Musharraf and [Indian] Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh have shown themselves to be leaders of courage and vision, and the U.S. will continue to encourage progress on all important issues, including Kashmir."

He lauded the progress made vis-a-vis in the confidence-building measures, between India and Pakistan and said they have had come a long way since a 2002 stand-off, which had caused a lot of tension and concern in the world. In his initial statement, Gen. Musharraf thanked Mr. Bush for his efforts towards resolution of disputes for the cause of peace in the region, and his "special reference to the resolution of [the] Kashmir dispute." The Pakistan leader said in the exclusive talks, lasting more than an hour, he asked Mr. Bush "to remain involved in facilitating resolution of all disputes, including Kashmir."

In response to a question on Kashmir, Mr. Bush said the best way to resolve it is for leaders of both countries to step up and lead. "And that's exactly what President Musharraf has done, and that's what Prime Minister Singh has assured me he wants to do, and that is to resolve this situation."

Mr. Bush said there was a need for some confidence in order for the countries to go move forward and the confidence-building measures that the governments have taken is were beginning to bear fruits in the form of increased trade, increased and transportation.

"I thought it was interesting that the Indians sent supplies immediately upon the devastating natural disaster. In other words, things are the atmosphere is changing. However, in order for a deal to get done, it requires commitment at the leadership level. And in my perspective, I've seen the commitment, and the role of the United States U.S. is to continue to encourage the parties to come together," he said.