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Pakistan surprised by Indian response on Kashmir
Updated: 2004-11-19 21:13

Pakistan has been surprised by some recent Indian comments on Kashmir and is hoping India can show flexibility in resolving the dispute at the heart of the neighbours' rivalry, Pakistani officials said on Friday.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri both expressed disappointment on Thursday about India's response to Pakistani proposals for reducing tension over the disputed Himalayan region.

"The president said Pakistan is not encouraged by the signals coming from India," said a Pakistani official, who declined to be identified, referring to Musharraf's comments.

"It's not an angry reaction but we're a bit surprised," he said. "Pakistan sincerely wants to push the dialogue process ... Pakistan is ready to show flexibility but it can't be unilateral, it has to be reciprocal."

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan for decades and the dispute has sparked two of their three wars. A ceasefire agreed nearly a year ago has been holding.

India has long insisted that Kashmir is an integral part of India while Pakistan has for decades been calling for the implementation of a U.N. plebiscite in Kashmir to determine the wishes of its mostly Muslim people.

Musharraf, who has said Pakistan might be willing to drop its demand for a plebiscite, made new proposals last month, saying Kashmir could be demilitarised and placed under U.N. control, put under joint control or even given its independence.

India responded cooly but announced last week it would pull some of its troops out of the region. That was welcomed by Pakistan as a positive step towards reducing tension.

But in comments that raised eyebrows in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, visiting Kashmir's main city on Wednesday, repeated India's position that Kashmir was an integral part of India and there could be no re-drawing of borders.


Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri said such "controversial statements" should be avoided.

"Pakistan-India relations are at a very delicate stage at the moment that require careful nurturing through avoidance of statements which could prove couterproductive to the ongoing dialogue process," Kasuri told Pakistan's APP news agency. "Statements of this nature caused disappointment among those people in Pakistan and India who are in favour of lasting peace in South Asia," he said.

If Pakistan was willing to show flexibility on its central demand for a plebiscite, India should also be willing to show flexibility, the Pakistani official said.

"Why should Pakistan make a concession on its stand on the plebiscite when the other side does not want to move beyond its stated position?" the official asked.

"If you have a dispute then you look for possible options. If you say there is no dispute, that Kashmir is an integral part of India, then you're in denial, or you're trying to play to the gallery, pacify your own constituents and you're not talking to the interlocutor, you're talking past them."

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will travel to India next week for talks expected to include the Kashmir dispute.

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