NATIONAL

Musharraf's U.N. speech likely to be keenly watched

ISLAMABAD Sept. 21. The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has said that the issue of terrorism and misconception about Islam as a faith that encouraged violence would be the highlights of his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 24.

Talking to reporters prior to his departure to New York, Gen. Musharraf said that he would also focus on the way forward to resolve the crisis being faced by the whole world in the form of extremism and militancy.

In a separate dispatch, the state-managed Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) has said that Gen. Musharraf would highlight the situation in South Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East; security and disarmament issues; terrorism; and issues relating to finance and development.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Munir Akram, has said that Gen. Musharraf would complain to the world body against the alleged negative attitude of India. In his latest interview, Gen. Musharraf has accused India of playing "dangerous games" in Kashmir.

Gen. Musharraf's speech at the U.N. would be keenly watched, particularly by India, as the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, would be speaking at the forum the following day. The External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, has already gone on record that the Pakistan President's U.N. speech would be a "test case" to gauge the progress on the Vajpayee peace initiative.

"The coming U.N. General Assembly will be a test case in this (on whether or not Pakistan is serious in engaging India on all issues including Kashmir) because this is the most important international meeting which is coming. If the Pakistan leadership were to indulge in India-bashing, in a tirade against India, then it will show that they have very little concern for the new initiative and the new atmosphere which has been created as a result of the initiative," Mr. Sinha told a Pakistan daily this week.

Mr. Sinha's remarks are significant as last year Gen. Musharraf had annoyed the Indian delegation at the U.N. by raking up the issue of killing of Muslims in Gujarat. Mr. Vajpayee deviated from his prepared text and questioned the legitimacy of Gen. Musharraf to raise issues related to

India.

Indications are that Gen. Musharraf would raise the Kashmir issue. The only thing to be watched is the tone and tenor of his India-centric references. For instance, if he were to merely reiterate his recent proposal for a ceasefire, the Indian response might not be strong. New Delhi has already rejected it on the ground that it was a suggestion to let militants sneak across the Line of Control (LoC) without any hindrance.

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