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Indian politicians give cautious welcome

January 13, 2002

NEW DELHI, Jan 12: India’s politicians on Saturday gave a cautious welcome to President Musharraf’s speech.

But the Indian government said it would react officially on Sunday after it had studied the text of the address “very closely”.

D.K. Malhotra, spokesman for India’s ruling BJP, said Pakistan had to follow words with deeds — something the Indian government has repeatedly said in the past. “Apart from two or three things I think it is the first time that he has said some things very clearly.

“However, there is a difference between words and action but we hope that he will take action. The benchmark will remain whether terrorism in Kashmir ends. It should not remain mere words.”

Jairam Ramesh, a senior leader of the Congress Party, said the speech marked a step forward in relations between India and Pakistan.

“The way Musharraf has spoken, the way he has packaged his speech shows that he is the master of public relations.

“Now we come to the substance of his speech: it rejects jihad, religious extremism, jihadi culture and outlines the actions he has said he will take against it. It is a step forward.

“He has said the right things but we have to look at the ground situation and see how the situation develops.”

Nilodpal Basu of the Communist Party of India also welcomed the address.

“Musharraf’s speech and the topics chosen — his promise to clamp down on terrorists, the reform of madressas, one cannot object to any of these statements,” he said.

“It is a definite step forward when Musharraf says terrorism will not be allowed in the name of furthering the Kashmiri cause. That Pakistan cannot compromise on Kashmir is understandable.

“But the general has rejected terrorism as an instrument of state policy — this is welcome.”

Analysts had mixed reactions to Musharraf’s speech. While some hailed it as “courageous”, others said it would do little to ease tensions between islamabad and Delhi.—AFP