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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Musharraf's search for support
Musharraf and Sri Lankan PM
General Musharraf: Making friends in Sri Lanka

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has returned home after a five-day tour of Asia which he insisted was not aimed at attracting support for his position against India.

His final stop was Beijing where he thanked the Chinese leadership for their consistent support for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute.

Indian forces in Kashmir
The dispute over Kashmir remains a key concern
He said he briefed Chinese officials on Pakistan's efforts to reduce tensions on the Line of Control in Kashmir where Indian and Pakistani soldiers are still deployed in huge numbers.

His visits there and to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka did give him an opportunity to explain Pakistan's position on the Kashmir dispute and strengthen relations with three of India's neighbours.

Strained ties

It was precisely because of the poor state of relations between India and Pakistan that President Musharraf opted to fly home via Beijing - to avoid travelling through Indian airspace.

In Sri Lanka, apart from signing free trade agreements, much was made of Pakistan's assistance to the army there in its fight against Tamil Tiger rebels.

Many Sri Lankan army officers are trained in Pakistan, and Islamabad has been an important source for arms purchases during the civil war.

President Musharraf also took the opportunity to explain that he would not initiate a war with India, but added that he would jealously guard the nation's sovereignty.

Regret expressed

In Dhaka at the start of his trip, President Musharraf came closer than any other Pakistani leader to apologising for the abuses committed by the Pakistani army in 1971 during the war for Bangladeshi independence.

With a new party in power in Bangladesh that has traditionally had much closer ties to Pakistan than India, the apology in all but name will help cement relations.

President Musharraf himself says the India-Pakistan relationship may be at its lowest ebb for some time.

He seems to have been working hard to keep the other countries in the region on his side.

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02 Aug 02 | South Asia
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