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The BBC's Adam Mynott
Delhi has argued that the Hurriyat has no role to play in the talks
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Musharraf seeks Kashmir meeting
Indian soldiers on the Line of Control
Kashmir is expected to dominate the forthcoming summit
Pakistan's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, has asked to meet with the main alliance of Kashmir separatist parties during his visit to India.

General Musharraf wrote to the Hurriyat leaders saying he looked forward to an opportunity to meet them.

The request comes despite India's strong opposition to the meeting - which may take place at Pakistan's high commission in Delhi.

Let me assure you that Pakistan will continue to extend its full moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people

General Pervez Musharraf
An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said the letter would not help relations between the two countries during the forthcoming summit on the disputed territory.

General Musharraf said in his letter that he had asked Pakistani diplomats in Delhi to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate the meeting.

"Let me assure you that Pakistan will continue to extend its full moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle," he added.

Kashmiri separatists
The separatists sought meetings with both leaders
The separatist alliance had written to the Pakistani president as well as the Indian prime minister to request a meeting with both leaders.

But India stuck to its stance that the separatists had no role to play in the forthcoming summit.

"This is an historic summit between India and Pakistan. Let us not lose sight of that," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

Earlier, President Musharraf called for "straight talking" over the issue of Kashmir.

In an interview with the Times of India newspaper, he said the time had come "to be upfront, to catch the bull by the horns."

He also said there was a need for open-mindedness and flexibility on both sides to resolve the long-running dispute.

General Musharraf is to visit to India in 10 days' time in what will be the first such high-level meeting in over two years between the rival nations.

Look to the future

In his interview, the Pakistani leader repeated his view that Kashmir was the core issue in relations with India.

Pakistani ruler
General Musharraf: Any solution must involve Kashmiri people
But he refused to go into details on any ideas for resolving the dispute - except to say that it must involve the Kashmiri people otherwise it would not be workable.

He also said that the two countries must "not live in history," adding that if they talked about the Kargil conflict in 1999 it would open a Pandora's box.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir and came close to a third in the summer of 1999 when Pakistani-backed infiltrators crossed into Indian Kashmir.

Confidence-building measures

On Wednesday, the Indian Government announced it was freeing more than 400 Pakistani civilians held in various prisons as a goodwill gesture before the summit meeting.

An Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the move reflected Delhi's "positive approach" towards Islamabad.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan released an Indian cyclist, Vikas Singh, who was jailed for three years after entering the country from Afghanistan without a visa.

Mr Singh, an engineer from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, has been on a round-the-world tour to promote peace.

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See also:

04 Jul 01 | South Asia
India frees jailed Pakistanis
19 Jun 01 | South Asia
Date set for India-Pakistan summit
24 Aug 00 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
24 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
20 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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