Powell Assures Pakistan on Afghanistan, India; Musharraf Wants Swift End to Attacks
US Secretary of State Colin Powell moved Tuesday to reassure Pakistan on its domestic economic concerns as well as fears about US policy toward its two largest and closest neighbors - Afghanistan and India. Meanwhile, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called for a “swift end” to the US attacks on Afghanistan, reported agencies.
According to AFP, Powell told Musharraf that Pakistan's cooperation with the US-led anti-terrorism coalition marked the start of a new era in ties between Washington and Islamabad.
At a joint news conference, he said Musharraf's decision to join the coalition despite the threat of violent and potentially destabilizing protests had been "bold and courageous" and would be rewarded.
"In the coming months, the United States will take concrete steps to strengthen Pakistan's economy and further broaden our commercial and trade ties," Powell said, noting in particular the need to reschedule the country's crippling debt.
Musharraf said his government's decision to support the anti-terror coalition had been one of principle and added that Pakistan was in it for the long haul, although he voiced hope the campaign would be short and avoid civilian casualties.
"To this extent we will certainly carry on cooperating as long as the operation lasts," he said.
Although he said that the majority of his subjects supported his actions, Musharraf added that most people in the country wanted an early end to the US-led campaign against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban for sheltering terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden.
"One would like to say that certainly a majority of the people are against the operation in Afghanistan, they would like to see this operation to be terminated as fast as possible and that is what I would urge the coalition - to achieve the military objectives and terminate the operation."
Powell addressed two of Pakistan's biggest regional concerns by pledging that the United States would only back a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan that was friendly to its neighbors, and identified the dispute over Kashmir as "central" to relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
"There is no doubt that we both have a common goal to see that the Afghan government is one that will represent all the people of Afghanistan and a regime that obviously will be friendly to all its neighbors including Pakistan," Powell said at a joint news conference with Musharraf.
He said all elements of Afghan society - including the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and "southern tribal leaders" - must be included in any discussion of the future of Afghanistan.
Musharraf said he and Powell had agreed that a durable peace in Afghanistan was only possible through a "broad-based, multi-ethnic government," established without outside interference.
He said the process of establishing a new regime could involve former Afghan king Zahir Shah, the Northern Alliance and moderate elements in the Taliban.
"Extremism is not in every Taliban," Musharraf said. "I wouldn't like to get into the details of who are moderates, but we know for sure there are many moderates in the Taliban."
Powell and Musharraf declined to comment on reports of mass defections within the Taliban that have come as the bombing campaign enters its tenth day.
Powell, who is to travel to India later Tuesday for talks there with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, agreed with Musharraf that Kashmir was "central" to the relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad in what he called a "critically important" part of the world.
"We too believe the Kashmir issue is central to the relationship," Powell said in remarks likely to anger India, which opposes Pakistan's view that Kashmir is the "core" issue in their ties and must be addressed before all others.
"I will press upon both sides ... that dialogue between the two sides is important," Powell said, offering to be "helpful" if both countries wanted the United States to play a role – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)