'Mediation is the only choice'

WASHINGTON,FEB.15. The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has wrapped up his three-day official working visit to the United States by flaying India again for its ``insincerity'' in coming to terms with the Kashmir issue and arguing that the U. S. is the only country that can be in the business of mediation and facilitation.

``You ought to sit down sensibly and talk and resolve disputes. But if bilateralism does not work, if there is insincerity, then may I suggest that mediation and facilitation is the only choice and I believe in the Kashmir dispute that is the case. And the only country that can go for mediation and facilitation is the United States of America,'' Gen. Musharraf said at his luncheon remarks at the National Press Club here.

Gen. Musharraf was asked if Washington has been ``responsive'' to the request of mediation and if any progress was made during his talks here. ``Yes, it has responded. And I know that President Bush and Secretary Colin Powell have been playing a role behind the scene to defuse the situation. And they are extremely keen that we move forward on a process of dialogue on all issues including Kashmir,'' Gen. Musharraf said.

He once again called for a four-part process for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute without rightaway getting down to the ``ultimate solution'' : starting a dialogue, accepting the centrality of Kashmir as the dispute between the two countries, eliminating what is unacceptable to both sides and, finally, seeking a solution.``Let us not talk of a solution now'', Gen. Musharraf said.

The tone and tenor of Gen. Musharraf's address to the press club was very much on the lines of his Tuesday's speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, especially as it pertained to Kashmir, the U.S. role and tensions between India and Pakistan. And he created quite a stir that day by talking about information of nuclear testing by India.

He clarified that New Delhi had not carried out new nuclear tests. ``...I said we got reports-they fired off a missile...And we got reports that they may be testing-going in for a nuclear test also. One didn't understand why they had to test their missiles at this moment. I mean, it's not totally not understandable. Is it to coerce us or is it to tell the world that here is a big power which does not care about world concerns '', Gen. Musharraf asked.

Turning to the tensions along the India-Pakistan border, he argued that India's excuse was of the terrorist attack on the Parliament. ``The excuse that there was an attack, terrorist attack on Parliament, of which we haven't got any evidence,should not have been taken (as) an excuse for this brinkmanship, for this knee-jerk response of moving forces on the borders and creating a climate of possible war between two countries holding nuclear potential. This is brinkmanship at its worst,'' he said.

Gen. Musharraf said that Pakistan did not have the 20 terrorists that India was insistent on being handed over. ``...this is a very complicated issue. There are a lot of terrorists. This game has been going on between India and Pakistan for all these (years) in the past...they(India) restricted the history of this to a few years, five or six years. But we would like to then go back into history. So this issue of terrorists being handed over by Pakistan or by them needs to be addressed when we start negotiating on all disputes, including Kashmir,'' he said.

The Pakistani President acknowledged that he had not received any assurance from the Bush administration on the F-16 fighter jets that Islamabad would very much like to have''. ...This is a contentious issue which we need to address. We would like to address it, but we haven't got any assurances yet'', he remarked.

This apart, Gen. Musharraf said the two countries had reached an agreement on defence cooperation that includes reimbursement to the tune of $ 300 million for Afghan operations, release of equipment and spare parts now that sanctions have been lifted and on International Military Education and Training.But on a broader scale, he was looking for assistance in the areas of debt relief, fiscal support and market access.

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