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Bush prods India and Pak to solve Kashmir issue

Bush called on the two neighbours to iron out their differences, saying that they should work towards lasting peace.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 14:37 IST

US President George W Bush on Thursday urged India and Pakistan to settle a decades-old dispute over Kashmir.

The US President, after landmark talks that sealed a deal on civilian nuclear trade with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, called on the two nuclear-capable neighbours to iron out their differences.

"India and Pakistan have an opportunity to work towards lasting peace," Bush said.

"Prime Minister Singh and President Pervez Musharraf have shown themselves to be leaders of courage and vision and I encourage them to continue making progress on all issues including Kashmir," Bush told reporters.

In Srinagar, separatists hoped Bush could help resolve regional rivalries.

"We certainly believe President Bush can play an important role in resolving the dispute over Kashmir," Yasin Malik, a senior separatist leader, said.

"Being a close friend of India and Pakistan Bush can certainly use his good offices to end the dispute."

On Wednesday, Musharraf told the BBC he hoped Bush would push for a solution.

"All that I expect is his weight, his voice pressurising all three groups -- me, Indians and Kashmiris - to resolve the dispute now because now is the ideal time, ideal environment to resolve it," said Musharraf.

Kashmiri separatist demands range from independence to merger with Pakistan.

Shabir Shah, another senior separatist, said he was hopeful.

"The time is certainly ripe for solution. After years of hostilities India and Pakistan are holding talks and have taken some positive steps. Now is the time to get serious on the Kashmir issue," said Shah.

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 14:55 IST