Grasp the moment, Musharraf urges India over Kashmir dispute


DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - President Pervez Musharraf called on India to join Pakistan in working out a mould-breaking solution to their Kashmir dispute that could lead to self-governance and make the Line of Control "irrelevant." In comments on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Musharraf urged a step-by-step approach that would start with defining Kashmir`s borders and end with a joint cross-border administration. "I am extremely flexible, and I am bold enough to go for an out-of-the-box solution," he told reporters on Thursday. "But we cannot clap with one hand. I expect India to join." "Grasp these fleeting moments at this time," he went on. "Fleeting moments come and go. It is incumbent on all leaders to grasp these moments, otherwise they are not leaders." Pakistan and India, regional and nuclear rivals, agreed earlier this month to implement fresh measures to lower tensions over Kashmir, a dispute that has soured bilateral ties for almost six decades and triggered two of their three wars since 1947. The countries each hold part of the Himalayan region but claim it in full, while an insurgency in the Indian-held part has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1989. Pakistani officials with Musharraf at the annual gathering of political and business heavyweights in Davos, Switzerland, said that his comments Thursday were his clearest to date. He said that once Kashmir`s geographical status had been defined, the whole province would be demilitarised. It would then get a self-governing administration -- short of independence but more than autonomy -- and officials from Kashmir, India and Pakistan would jointly manage the area on both sides of the current Line of Control. By doing that, he said, "we have made the Line of Control irrelevant." The Pakistani leader warned that if a solution did not come soon, political changes could make it impossible later. "We need to move forward. If we do not do that, permanent peace cannot be guaranteed in the region. No leader is permanent." On January 19, after the latest round of talks in New Delhi, the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers said that they had, for the first time, discussed the possibility of creating a military "disengagement zone" in Kashmir. Pakistan`s Riaz Mohammed Khan also said then that Islamabad had asked India to allow self-governance for Kashmir. While both sides confirmed a commitment to keeping the peace process going, India criticised its neighbour for not doing enough to stem a flow of Islamic militants into Kashmir to feed the insurgency. Musharraf admitted that while the confidence-building side of the talks was progressing, dispute resolution -- which focuses on Kashmir -- was lagging. His proposed step-by-step solution, he said, would require compromise from all sides, adding that "Pakistan will not step back unilaterally."

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