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Bush has 'started playing a role' in Kashmir issue

Source: PTI
February 25, 2006 19:36 IST
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United States President George W Bush has said that he has 'started to play a role' in resolving the Kashmir issue by calling for a solution agreeable to all parties.

He also emphasised the need for a 'tangible progress' on the issue.

Bush, who will be visiting India and Pakistan next week, said he will use his upcoming trip to urge the leadership of the two countries to continue solving the issue with the idea that it can be solved.

"I started to play a role in my speech and spoke out on the issue and encouraged the President [Pervez Musharraf] and Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh] to continue down the road," President Bush told PTV in an interview when asked what role he planned to play during his visit to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Bush was referring to his speech at the Asia Society in Washington where he urged India and Pakistan to look for a bilateral solution acceptable to all sides. Bush arrives in Islamabad on March 3 on a two-day visit.

"You might remember an earlier time in my presidency, there was real tension. And now, all of a sudden, there are some very encouraging signs -- new transportation opportunities, trade," he said.

Bush said that in his discussions with Dr Singh and General Musharraf in the past, both had a 'different attitude and part of it has to do with trust, but there's got to be a tangible progress. I recognise that'.

Bush said the objective of his visit to Pakistan will be to strengthen the 'good relationship' with the General.

Referring to Musharraf as 'my buddy', he said, "Relationship between Pakistan and the US in the past often depended on the relations between the leaders. One objective of this trip is to continue with this good relationship."

"President Musharraf and I can set a tone for the relationship because of our capacity to talk to each other. It's important to share concerns and to talk about ideas. So, one object of the trip is to continue what is a good relationship. A good relationship between me and the President tends to permeate throughout our government," he said.

Bush said the other thing that's interesting and important for the people of Pakistan to know is 'that President Musharraf, in his democracy initiative, can show the whole Muslim world, and the world itself, that it's possible to have a religion that is not extreme, and a state that listens to people and responds to the needs of people'.

"And that's a really important message that Pakistan can show the world." he said.

Pakistan's opposition parties have denounced Bush's earlier remarks that he supported Musharraf's 'vision for a democracy in Pakistan' and he believed that the Pakistan President will hold 'free and open elections' next year.

To another question on how he will assist the country in its fight against terrorism, Bush said the US is closely coordinating with Pakistan in the fight against foreign militants.

"We shared a mutual interest. Nobody wants foreign fighters on their soil wreaking havoc and it is hard for a country to develop if there are people in that part of the country that are willing to kill to achieve an objective. So we share short term with the Pakistan objectives and we have long term objectives that is to get freedom," he said.

On the continuing terrorist attacks, he said, "More Muslims have died at the hands of Al Qaeda and these extremists than anybody else."

"I don't view these people as religious people. I view them as people who have taken a great religion and kind of twisted it to meet their means. It's a vision that doesn't recognise the freedom of people to worship."

Asked what durable measures he planned to take to create sustainable relationship between the US and Pakistan, Bush said, "We want people to understand that the relationship is a vital relationship that will exist throughout the years. One way of doing it is by increasing trade opportunities between our countries and we will be talking about a bilateral investment treaty.

Pakistani and US officials were currently finalising the BIT so that it could be signed during President Bush's two day visit.


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