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No troop withdrawal in Jammu and Kashmir till terrorism ceases, Singh tells Musharraf

By Saisuresh Sivawamy in New York
September 15, 2005 19:46 IST
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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in no uncertain terms that there was no question of withdrawing troops from any sector in Jammu and Kashmir -- as sought by Pakistan -- and told him it was linked to terrorism on the ground.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told the Indian media in New York on Thursday morning that Dr Singh told General Musharraf that his government would take a decision on the basis of the prevailing security situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir.

Till the incidence of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir did not end, Dr Singh said, the Indian government could not consider the question of reducing or removing the security forces from anywhere in the state.

The issue of terrorism, which has dogged ties between the two nations, featured prominently in the talks between the two leaders on Wednesday night.

Dr Singh told General Musharaf that while the commitment to the peace process was irreversible, so long as acts of violence and terrorism did not end, it cast a long shadow over India's ability to take the peace process forward.
The Pakistan president was also presented with the assessment that June and July actually saw a spurt in violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

General Musharraf assured the prime minister that his government would do all in its power to allay Indian misgivings on this front and listed the various measures taken by his country to end terrorism. But, he added, there was a ground reality that needed to be recognised and addressed if the peace process were to move forward smoothly.

Both leaders, however, agreed that this issue could not be allowed to impede the peace process.

In this context, President Musharraf's address to the United Nations General Assembly earlier in the day, in which he advanced the need for Jammu and Kashmir to be resolved in the light of UN Security Council resolutions, was raised, and pointed out that this did not fit well with the need to create a positive atmosphere for the talks.

Foreign Secretary Saran said General Musharraf's response was that while it was not his intention to create a negative setting, he also had to make the statement as there has to be progress on issues important to Pakistan since one had to be sensitive to public opinion.

Prime Minister Singh too agreed that his ability to move the peace process forward too depended on carrying the Indian people along.
The two leaders went through what had been achieved so far in the two rounds of composite dialogue between the countries, reviewed the various steps taken so far, and agreed that the third round of the dialogue in January had much going for it.

On Jammu and Kashmir, Saran said the broad tenor of the discussions was to reiterate what was agreed in New York last
year when the two leaders had met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and both sides agreed to look at what more can be done to take the peace process forward.

Asked about Sir Creek and Siachen, two issues on which the April statement between the sides said needed to be expeditious progress, Saran said while the range of issues when two leaders meet cannot be the same as when two foreign secretaries meet, "we are looking at how best to address these two issues taking into consideration all the concerns."

The discussions, Saran said, were marked by a considerable amount of frankness and candour, and were conducted in the spirit of taking the peace process forward. Prime Minister Singh emphasised the need to maintain a positive, non-contentious atmosphere in order to give a proper direction to the talks.

The Pakistan president, the foreign secretary said, arrived at the New York Palace hotel at 8.30 pm, and the talks between the two sides went on for near on two hours. Then the two sides moved on to dinner, after which Dr Singh and General Musharraf held a one on one.

The joint statement issued at the end of the talks, Saran said, was actually drafted quickly, and shows a certain amount of maturity. In the past, much midnight oil would have been expended over little nuances, he pointed out, and concluded that it was an encouraging sign that it could be finalised so quickly.

He also said it was not correct to expect something spectacular each time the two sides sat down to talk. "We can't provide that every few weeks," he told the media. "We are not in event making, but process making, and that involves a lot of hard
work, a lot of incremental work. Various issues need to be addressed, issues that have a long legacy and are complicated. What is called for is a step by step movement."

The dinner between the two sides was a relaxed one, he said, and the conversation meandered to cricket, the past linkages between the two countries, the cultural affinities between them and the people to people contacts. It was a pleasant encounter, Saran remarked.

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Saisuresh Sivawamy in New York