NATIONAL

Musharraf sees light at the end of the tunnel

WASHINGTON, DEC. 6. The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has said that even while India and Pakistan are supposed to be going about the resolution of the dispute over Kashmir in a "purposeful manner" and that he is "fairly upbeat" about the new Indian Government, there will have to be a balance of military power in the region.

In an interview to the CNN on Sunday, Gen. Musharraf acknowledged that he did indeed have a military hardware "wish list" but said he did not want to get into the details.

Gen. Musharraf expressed confidence and optimism about resolving the Kashmir issue with New Delhi: "I am very optimistic about it because of the joint statement that was issued between me and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It has a lot of optimism in it that we are supposed to be discussing all options for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in a purposeful manner. So I keep saying there's light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Asked if he was upbeat about his counterparts in India, he replied: "Yes, I would say fairly upbeat. We need to move ahead on the process of considering solutions to the Kashmir problem and reaching an option."

Gen. Musharraf, who was here for a Saturday meeting with the United States President, George W. Bush, was asked about the military weapons agenda of Pakistan, in particular about the issue of the F-16s.

He first responded generally to this query saying: "We want a balance — a balance in our region to be maintained in conventional weapons. Now in that balance, there is some imbalance which is being created because of the purchases being done by the Indian forces."

Pressed on the military hardware "wish list," Gen. Musharraf said: "... I don't want to get into the details of that wish list, but certainly high technology aircraft. We are looking for high technology aircraft."

"Additional problems"

Gen. Musharraf was critical of the American war in Iraq saying that "additional problems" have come up as a result; and saying the world is "less safe" as a result of the invasion of Iraq.

Asked if in hindsight it was a mistake for Mr. Bush to have ordered this invasion, he replied: "Yes, with hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more problems." But said that the U.S. and coalition partners should not simply pull out of Iraq at this time. "They should not because that will create more problems in the region. Now that we are there we need to stabilise the situation and then only pull out," he said.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer who interviewed him for his show said that shortly after the interview a Pakistani Government spokesman told him that "Gen. Musharraf did not want to be that categorical in his assertion that President Bush had made a mistake by invading Iraq."

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