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September 24, 1998


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Sharief calls for world aid in resolving J&K issue

C K Arora in New York

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief last night again urged the international community to help solve the 50-year-old dispute over Kashmir. This came shortly after he and the Indian prime minister agreed to work towards better relations and not malign each other through their official media.

In his speech at the United Nations general assembly, Sharief, made out a strong case for the major powers, particularly the United States, playing the mediator.

During his meeting with US President Bill Clinton in New York on Monday, Sharief had called for US intervention in Kashmir. But Clinton parried the demand, saying India was against such an idea. India favours settlement of all its bilateral problems with Pakistan through direct talks as envisaged in the 1972 Simla agreement.

Nawaz Sharief, after ''a very friendly and cordial'' 90-minute luncheon meeting with Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, charged India with going back on the 1948 UN Security Council resolution, asking New Delhi to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Sharief said the Kashmiri people were living in a nightmare, and that there was high tension along the Line of Control. This came just after he announced he had reached an agreement with Vajpayee to resume dialogue between the two countries and foreign secretary-level talks which, he said, would address "at the outset, the primary issues of peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir''.

Sharief urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take "appropriate initiatives'' to implement Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and to ease tensions and build confidence. He immediately followed that up, saying his government was committed to resolving Pakistan's problems with India through dialogue.

He blamed India for Pakistan's decision to conduct nuclear tests this May and claimed that the tests were designed to prevent the threat or use of force against Pakistan, and that they served the cause of peace and stability in the region.

Contrary to reports that Pakistan was ready to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Sharief appeared to link Pakistan's signature to India also adhering to the treaty. He said Pakistan was prepared to adhere to the CTBT before the conference of state parties to the treaty scheduled for September 1999, but the adherence would take place only in conditions free from coercion or pressure.

Pakistan, Sharief said, would insist on the principle of equal treatment with India, be it in terms of status or any kind of incentives. It must be well understood that if India were to resume nuclear tests, Pakistan would review its position, and "in case we have adhered to the CTBT, invoke the supreme interests clause as provided under article nine of the treaty.''

Sharief told the assembled world leaders that durable peace between Pakistan and India and restraint in their military postures would be critically dependent on the resolution of the Kashmir issue which "has been the root cause of all conflicts and tensions between Pakistan and India''.

He said the world must appreciate that Pakistan did not initiate the tests. ''India tested to alter the strategic balance and threatened our security and sovereignty,'' he said.

"We waited for 17 days for the world to respond. We knew that no country could provide us security assurances against a nuclear India. Thus, circumstances forced us to test and establish nuclear deterrence in self-defence. We have violated no international norm,'' Sharief said.

In this context, the Pakistan prime minister described as "unjust'' the sanctions imposed on his country by some "friendly countries'', and said: "I ask the international community who is wrong and why should Pakistan be subjected to a punitive measure?''

Sharief said India's nuclear tests in May should not have come as a surprise to the world.

"We had warned the world several weeks before the tests. Even after India conducted its tests, the response of the major powers was weak and ambiguous. Once again, greater energy was devoted to restraining Pakistan than in responding to India,'' he said.

He said immediately after its nuclear tests, India's leaders adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan. They told Pakistan that the geo-strategic balance had changed and that Pakistan should abandon its support for Kashmir's self-determination. Facing ''the threat of force,'' Sharief said, "We felt compelled to convince India that any military aggression against Pakistan would have the most disastrous consequences.''

In speaking about the Kashmir issue, Sharief cited UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's recent annual report. Pakistan, he said, welcomed the "recognition'' in the report that rising tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and other issues was a major cause of concern.

Sharief urged that the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan be strengthened and its mandate enhanced. The Security Council, he said, should regularly monitor the volatile situation along the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir.


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