This refers to the editorial "Clues to Kashmir peace puzzle" (Dec. 13). Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam's statement that her country has never claimed Kashmir as an integral part of its territory is a pleasant surprise. She has buttressed her assertion, saying Pakistan-held Kashmir has its own president and prime minister. It is clear that there is a paradigm shift in Pakistan's stand on Kashmir. If it indeed has no territorial design in Kashmir, it should leave the issue to the Kashmiris and stop fighting on their behalf.

K.V. Seetharamaiah,
Hassan

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Ms. Aslam's remarks vindicate New Delhi's stand that Kashmir is an integral part of India. One feels that the latest statements by President Pervez Musharraf and his Government are effective catalysts for a change.

K.S. Thampi,
Chennai

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By stating openly that it has never claimed Kashmir as its integral part, Pakistan has only reiterated the legal position. The Indian Independence Act 1947 gave the princely states the right to choose between India and Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir became an irrevocable part of India once Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India.

It is an open secret that Pakistan's relations with India have been closely linked to its fixation on Kashmir. When all is said and done, Pakistan's latest statement is welcome, as it is likely to take the neighbours closer to solving the peace puzzle.

A. Paramesham,
New Delhi

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A week ago, Gen. Musharraf said Pakistan was willing to give up its claim to Kashmir if India accepted his "four-point solution." Why should he offer to give up the claim over something his country never claimed in the first place, using a non-existent thing to negotiate? "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!" (Sir Walter Scott, Marmion)

S.P. Sundaram,
Chennai

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Now that Gen. Musharraf has clarified Pakistan's stand on Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should seize the opportunity to settle the issue once and for all. The BJP should not be a stumbling block to the negotiations.

M.N. Srinivasan,
Vellore

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Statements emanating from Pakistan are intended to pressure India in two ways. While they will invoke the wrath of those who favour self-rule for Kashmir, India will be forced to negotiate the Kashmir issue more seriously on bilateral and multilateral forums. The Government should respond with a strong message.

Rajeev Ranjan Dwivedi,
Dhenkanal, Orissa

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Pakistan's latest statement is superficial and bears no significance. It should not be seen as a shift in its Kashmir policy. It is an attempt to mislead the world until the tide turns in Gen. Musharraf's favour. With India set to sign a nuclear deal with the U.S., Pakistan wants to gain some ground and win credibility in American circles. Had Gen. Musharraf really believed that the people of Kashmir should decide their fate, he would have ended cross-border terror by now.

Shashikant Singh,
Roorkee