America ready to broker Indo-Pak peace: Bush

Washington, September 23 :

The United States is prepared to play any role in efforts by India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute if invited by the two nuclear-armed neighbours, US President George W Bush said yesterday.

Bush, speaking at a joint news conference with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, said he noticed that leaders of the two countries were determined to end their row over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, claimed in full by both.

“I asked the president, just like I would ask the prime minister of India: What can we do to

help? What would you like the United States to do to facilitate an agreement?,” the US leader said after hour-long talks with Musharraf.

“Would you like us to get out of the way? Would you like us not to show up? Would you like us to be actively involved? How can we help you, if you so desire, to achieve peace?,” Bush said.

“And that’s the role of the United States, as far as I’m concerned.” Musharraf had briefed Bush on his recent agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for top diplomats in New Delhi and Islamabad to resume high-level peace talks suspended in July after a series of bombings in Mumbai.

Bush said he was “encouraged” by the agreement between Musharraf and Singh reached on the sidelines of Non-Aligned Movement summit in Cuba this month to move the peace talks forward. “It is an indication that there is desire at the leadership level to solve this longstanding problem,” he said.

Musharraf said that rather than leaving the task to officials and ministers, who were bogged down with “so many meetings,” he and Singh should grapple head-on with the contentious issues that need to be tackled to bring about lasting peace.

“It is a time that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and myself, we sit down and reach decisions and solutions, because I always believe that one should never suffer from paralysis through analysis,” he told a forum at the George Washington University yesterday.

Singh has accepted an invitation from Musharraf to visit Pakistan.

Musharraf warned of groups bent on derailing the peace process but said that there was “a resolve on both sides to move the process forward.” The groups, he said, “have rigid positions” and “don’t want to move the peace process forward.”