NATIONAL

Include Kashmiris, says Musharraf

B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has sought the early "inclusion" of Kashmiris in the Pakistan-India dialogue process.

Before leaving on his three-day visit to India, on the first leg of his three-nation tour, Gen. Musharraf said, "We will try to make them [Kashmiris] a part [of the dialogue process] as soon as possible." "As far as I am concerned, earlier the better, but we need to see... it has to suit our counterpart [the Indian leadership] and us," he said. The Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, the Chairman Senate, Muhammadmian Soomro, the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, Ahsan Saleem Hayat, and senior government and military officials saw him off at the military airport.

Gen. Musharraf, who will meet the rival factions of the Hurriyat in New Delhi, said: "It is extremely important that I meet them because we have to decide on their future.Therefore their involvement is extremely important."

"Historic visit"

He agreed with media reports describing his visit to India as "historic." "I think it is a very historic visit after Agra. I think it [visit] has more chances of optimism because the environment — when you compare Agra with today — is very different, it is a congenial environment, it is a friendly environment," he said. He said there was a desire on both sides to make the visit a success and "therefore I think it is very much a historic visit."

At the end of his visit to India on April 18, Gen. Musharraf will leave for Philippines and Indonesia. Pakistan, he said, had very good and friendly relations with the two Southeast Asian countries. He hoped his visit would help to further strengthen these ties and develop understanding on political and world issues.

The First Lady, Begum Sehba Musharraf, the Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, the Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri, the Minister of State for Religious Affairs, Amir Liaqut Hussian, the Minister of State for Education, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Women's welfare, Nilofer Bakhtiar, and the Foreign and Information Secretaries are accompanying Gen. Musharraf.

The Commerce Minister, Humayan Akhtar, will join the delegation in New Delhi.

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