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India striving to dub Kashmir struggle as terrorism

WASHINGTON June 14, 2002 (SANA)- Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Dr Maleeha Lodhi has said that Indian strategy has been to cast Kashmir struggle as terrorism adding that it was constantly denying the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people at the cost of peace of the region.
She was addressing a seminar entitled  "In the Shadow of Terrorism: Pakistan's Evolving Relationship with the United States" at Meridian International Centre  " Kashmir movement is a just struggle for the right of self determination as approved by UN charter  and cannot be termed terrorism", she said.
She dispelled the Indian allegations of cross-border infiltration as untenable and divorced from reality. "Pakistan's views on infiltration are  clear and unambiguous. President Musharraf has categorically stated that Pakistan would not allow anyone to use its territory for terrorism anywhere. We continue to abide by that commitment", she said.
She said that it was illogical to hurl allegations of intrusion when "The Line of Control  is heavily mined on the Indian side and is defended by a three-layer defence perimeter in addition to over 250, 000 Indian troops  deployed along the LoC to prevent infiltration. "We have called for strengthening of UNMOGIP or any other neutral verification mechanism to monitor the LoC. India continues to reject this reasonable proposal", she informed the participants.
She said that India allegedly implicated Pakistan in Jammu attack on May 14 and the attack on Indian Parliament last December without substantiating its flimsy claims with tenable evidences even though Pakistan categorically condemned the terrorist attacks.
" India turned down Pakistan's offer of  holding either  joint inquiry or an independent investigation into the attacks to identify the elements behind the terrorist acts and instead  fanned the war hysteria by amassing its troops on Pakistani borders", she said.
She further said, "This was in addition to extremely sharp rhetoric and public statements on dangerous notions of hot pursuit, surgical strikes and limited war. Not so long ago, Prime Minister Vajpayee had threatened a decisive battle."
Referring to Indian demand of asking Pakistan to hand over fugitives she said, "Matters like fugitives need time to be addressed as they involve sharing of evidence and compliance with legal procedures."
Dr Lodhi said that Pakistan had taken a series of steps  to address the question of extremism and terrorism by  banning  several militant groups, closing  their offices , freezing their accounts and arresting  hundreds of their members.
About the Indian proposal of  joint patrolling on LoC she said, "The proposal  is unlikely to work in the current state of Indo-Pak relations as both states are distrustful of each other."
 She said that Pakistan had repeatedly stated its willingness to discuss all
issues, including mutual concerns on terrorism, as part of comprehensive
dialogue with India. "My country , for its part, has acted with restraint and responsibility in the face of India brinkmanship. We deployed our forces defensively to thwart any Indian misadventure and continued to call for resumption of dialogue at any time, any place", she added. "Pakistan, for its part, would continue to follow a constructive  approach to resolve this crisis through peaceful, diplomatic means and urge the de-escalation of tensions, return of troops to peace-time locations, and resumption of dialogue", she said.

 She however clarified that Pakistan  would defend itself resolutely in case of Indian aggression. She said that  the present phase in Pakistan-India relations commenced after 9/11 as  New Delhi did not take kindly to the revival of Pak-U.S. alliance and had sought to create doubts internationally about Pakistan's commitment to fight terrorism.
Dilating on U.S. and international role in defusing the tension between nuclear armed rivals she said, "The U.S. has been playing a very useful role, no matter how people choose to characterize it -- mediation or facilitation. President Bush and Mr Powel have been in touch with leaders in India and Pakistan and have devoted a lot of time in a bid to ease tension.
She regretted that the world becomes involved in South Asia only
for crisis management and added the need now was to go beyond this
minimalist approach and craft a sound conflict-resolution strategy.
"South Asia teeters on the brink of war every 2-3 years. To prevent
future crises, it is essential to address the underlying causes of tensions
and conflict. A fair and just solution of the Kashmir dispute, in accordance with aspirations of Kashmir people", she said.

She said that the world had to tell India that it could not persuasively and
legitimately argue any longer that Kashmir was not their business.
She asked for a pro-active, sustained and result-oriented engagement of the world in the Kashmir issue  and especially the US to facilitate a peace process in South Asia that leads to a fair Kashmir solution and durable peace in the region.

About Pak-US relations she said " A profound transformation has taken place in the environment of Pakistan-U.S. relations. The two countries are -- once again -- intensely engaged. Our re-engagement this time is markedly different in substance and  symbolism -- especially if viewed against the backdrop of our troubled relationship in the 1990s."
She rejected the argument that the re-engagement began only after Pakistan's agreement to cooperate with the United States in the aftermath of 9/11 saying , "This view looks at the reality only superficially. It overlooks the reform process initiated in Pakistan back in October 1999, aiming at economic revival, political stability, and social and religious moderation. Its domestic focus aside, our reform process also encompassed external relations." 

She disclosed that much before 9/11, Pakistan was well on course with the U.S. to narrow differences over Afghanistan and to evolve joint approaches to address the terrorism issue.
"For its part, the Bush Administration was also more broadly engaged with Pakistan than its predecessor and -- taking a realistic view of the non-proliferation question -- was on the brink of waiving sanctions", she recalled.
She however admitted that the process of engagement and gradual transformation of bilateral relations was undoubtedly accelerated after 9/11 and President Musharraf's immediate offer of cooperation to President Bush.
She also rejected the claim of  some quarters that Pakistan had no other choice but to join America in its war against terrorism to escape American wrath.
She said, "We reject the insinuation implicit in this view. One, sovereign  nations always have a range of choices, but they choose the path that is best dictated by their own national interests. Two, our positive response to America's call in its hour of need was not only consistent with our past counter-terrorism cooperation with Washington but also reinforced the general direction in which President Musharraf was moving Pakistan."
She added that Pakistan entered into this counter-terrorism coalition of its free will was further illustrated by the breadth and depth of cooperation extended by us to the U.S.
"President Bush, Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld, and Generals Meyers and Franks, have  often lauded Pakistan's role by  calling it extraordinary and excellent", Dr Lodhi said.
She held that the swift and significant successes achieved by the global coalition in Afghanistan would not have been possible without Pakistan's cooperation.
 Terming Pak-India tension as distraction she said, " We do believe the Indo-Pak crisis has been a distraction and our ability to fully focus on the Western border is constrained due to the threat posed to our national security from the East."
She maintained that in the  present phase in Pakistan-U.S. relations, her country  stood at a new threshold adding that after a very long time, both the countries  had a relationship free of the strangulating framework of sanctions.
She said that Afghanistan and terrorism were the major points of convergence between US and Pakistan. "Our dialogue today not only focuses on counter-terrorism cooperation but encompasses diverse areas -- ranging from bilateral and international economic issues to trade and investment ties to security and non-proliferation to science and technology cooperation to assistance in education and law enforcement", Maleeha said.
She said that since President Musharraf's visit of February 13, both the countries had a series of Ministerial visits which have helped impart institutional depth to the relationship.
Giving the details of joint expertise between US and Pakistan she said," The Defense Consultative Group has been revived, the Joint Economic Forum has held its inaugural meeting, and the Joint Working Group on Law Enforcement and Counter-terrorism has become operational. A Working Group on Trade and Commercial issues is being established."
She said that  the bilateral relationship between the two had been broadening and the level of cooperation in diverse areas was deepening.
She said that though the history of our bilateral relations had been replete with periodic freezes and thaws but the future looked shiny.
"In our view, the cyclical pattern of past U.S. engagement with
Pakistan was largely a function of Washington's Cold War considerations. The two countries engaged or disengaged as these considerations became manifest or dormant", she said.
She further said, "The cooperation developed during the earlier periods of engagement was heavily influenced by external factors, and was usually based on a single security anchor. It was not necessarily intrinsic to a Pakistan-U.S. relationship, for its own sake."
"The present is certainly different from that past: The Cold War is
over, the U.S. is still evolving an appropriate response to the new
international security challenges, and Pakistan has a different set of
domestic and foreign policy priorities", she added.
"Within this context, we visualize -- for the future -- a broad,
comprehensive Pakistan-U.S. relationship going beyond counter-terrorism and sustainable over the long term", she observed.
She further said,"Pakistan does not want a dependency relationship, as happened during the cold war, but a partnership for mutual benefit. A partnership with across-the-board cooperation and one in which trade and investment are more important than aid."
"We have found responsiveness on the U.S. side for this vision of
bilateral relations. We hope to build a strong, robust partnership in line
with this vision", she concluded.

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