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India open to new ideas on Kashmir: Manmohan

Skirting a direct response to Musharraf's 4-point formula, PM says, "normalising ties with Pak is a high priority".

india Updated: Dec 16, 2006 21:55 IST

In an indirect response to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's four-point formula for resolving the Kashmir issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said that India was open to new ideas from "whomsoever it comes" for resolving all issues with Pakistan.

Tactfully skirting a direct response to Musharraf's Kashmir formula, Manmohan Singh underlined that "normalising relations with Pakistan was a high priority" for his government and he would welcome any idea that can help improve India's relations with Pakistan.

"As far as General Musharraf's four points are concerned, I welcome the ideas from whomsoever it comes to normalise relations between India and Pakistan," Manmohan Singh said during an interaction with media persons on a special flight while returning home from a four-day visit to Japan.

He, however, refused to go into specifics and said that improved India-Pakistan ties are part of his larger vision in which the destiny of South Asia is interlinked.

"I give high priority to normalising our relations with Pakistan and solving all outstanding issues between our two countries that also includes the issue of Jammu and Kashmir," he stressed.

"If anytime new ideas come, we welcome them and I would like to say that in the last two and a half years we have had very intensive dialogue with Pakistan," he added.

In a recent interview to NDTV, Musharraf said for the first time that Pakistan was ready to give up its claim on Kashmir if India too moved from its stated position and accepted his four-point proposal that included joint management, demilitarisation and self-governance aimed at making the Line of Control (LoC) irrelevant.

This was widely interpreted in diplomatic and strategic circles in New Delhi as showing a shift from Islamabad's ideological to pragmatic approach to resolve a dispute that had shadowed ties between India and Pakistan for six decades.

From New Delhi's point of view, Musharraf's idea of making the LoC irrelevant was a reinforcement of what it has been stressing all along about creating a soft border through cross-border confidence building measures like boosting free flow of trade and people across the divided Kashmir.

"I have an invitation from the president of Pakistan which I have accepted," he replied when asked by this correspondent whether he had any plan to visit Pakistan next year.

Official sources, however, said that there was a possibility of the prime minister going to Pakistan sometime in the summer next year, but that would depend on some concrete decisions like a deal on the Siachen glacier that can justify such a high-level visit.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee plans to visit Pakistan on January 13 next year for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and to invite Musharraf for the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in New Delhi in February next year.

A visit by Manmohan Singh to Pakistan that Islamabad thinks is long overdue may also be discussed between Mukherjee and Kasuri, the source said.