Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  

Musharraf optimistic about Kashmir peace prospects

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf voiced Thursday optimism over the possibility of peace in the Kashmir region long-disputed with India.

Addressing business and political leaders at the World Economic Form, Musharraf said: "My optimism is based on the fact that for the first time there is a realisation that we need to address all issues including the issue of Kashmir to bring peace and harmony to the region."

For progress to be made there needed to be the "initiation of a composite dialogue" on all issues including Kashmir.

"I am very hopeful, that with sincerity and resolve on both sides we will address all issues," he added.

India and Pakistan both occupy Kashmir in parts and claim it in full, and have fought two of their three wars in an attempt to wrest full control of the picturesque Himalayan region.

The nuclear rivals are inching towards resuming talks on the future of the region after earlier this month reaching a breakthrough to reopen dialogue on all points of dispute between them.

Musharraf sought to reassure that his country's nuclear arms would never slip into the wrong hands.

"Pakistan's nuclear assets are in extremely safe hands and they will never be allowed to fall into the hands of extremists," the president said.

He called on wealthy countries to help root out what he considered to be the sources of extremism: unresolved political disputes, poverty and illiteracy.

"I personally feel, that the West, the United Nations, the United States ought to move forward toward the resolution of political disputes and the social-economic emancipation of the Muslim world", he said.