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Musharraf on Pakistani-Indian Relations: 'The Core Dispute is Kashmir' - 2002-09-11

The president of Pakistan says his country's role in the United States-led war against terrorism has helped his country's economy and internal security. But, President Pervez Musharraf says stability in South Asia is not possible until his country's relations with India improve.

General Musharraf emphasized Pakistan is proud to be playing a role in the fight against terrorism. He said his country is working hard to rid the country of terrorists connected to al-Qaeda, and is also trying to help promote stability in Afghanistan through trade and economic aid. He added stability will come to Afghanistan faster if $4.5 billion pledged by other nations for its reconstruction is released. Mr. Musharraf disagrees with those who say greater stability should come before the money is freed up.

"I do not think this is a correct attitude. I think we need to release the funds because through the reconstruction effort, political stability is going to come," said General Musharraf who was speaking to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and area business leaders. He cited lower budget deficits and inflation rates as reasons why foreign-based companies should invest in Pakistan.

The general said his country is also more stable since the beginning of the war against terrorism. He pointed out it is cracking down on what he calls a small number of extremist elements responsible for terrorist attacks on Western and Christian targets this year.

The bulk of the general's speech was devoted to India. As he did Sunday in a speech at Harvard University, he accused India of intransigence in the two countries' dispute over Kashmir. He said relations between the two countries will not improve until that matter is resolved.

"We in Pakistan realize the dangers, we understand the implications, we want the situation to diffuse, we want peace in the region, we want harmony in the region, but all we are saying is: this maybe is not possible, practical or implementable unless we resolve all of our disputes," explained Mr. Musharraf. "The core dispute is Kashmir."

Outside the hotel where the general was speaking, about a dozen members of Chicago's Indian community shouted, while waving signs reading, "Pakistan hides terrorists." Babu Patel was among those accusing Pakistan of being behind a series of terrorist attacks in India. India blames the attacks on militants harbored by Pakistan. Mr. Patel also criticized the United States for urging India not to respond militarily after the attacks.

"When they [terrorists] came to the Pentagon and destroyed part of the Pentagon, [look at] what you did. You went and wiped out Afghanistan," he said. "Don't we [Indians] have the same rights, to defend ourselves? Indian people are different people than Americans?"

President Musharraf is in the United States for this week's meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.