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US praise for Musharraf's Kashmir idea

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
November 09, 2004 19:31 IST
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US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has praised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's idea of dividing the Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control into seven regions, demilitarising them and granting them the status of independence or putting them under the United Nations' mandate.

"I was very much interested in the proposals that President Musharraf made and looked to me that it was being very forward thinking," Armitage, currently on a visit to Pakistan, told the state-run PTV.

"I think he has caused a great deal of thinking both in India and here in Pakistan about the way forward," he said.

Musharraf had come up with the idea at an Iftar party on October 25.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri subsequently clarified that the suggestion was just a "hypothetical situation", not a proposal.

Asked about involving Kashmiri leaders in the talks to resolve the problem, Armitage said, "Kashmiris have to be able to speak their minds and they should be heard and be listened to."

Referring to US-Pak ties, Armitage said the two countries had travelled to new lengths after the 9/11 attacks. "Key for success here is that we establish a relationship with Pakistan."

During President George W Bush's second term in office, he said, the thrust would be on political and economic ties.

"The changes we see are changes of acceleration. We want to have relations with Pakistan that is political and economic... We need to get some foreign direct investment in here. We certainly want to continue our excellent cooperation with the military and want to develop cultural exchange with Pakistan," Armitage said.

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K J M Varma in Islamabad