Straw Meets Pakistan President Musharraf
Jack Straw: discussions with President Musharraf have been 'constructive and forthright'
In an interview following his meeting with President Musharraf of Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said he did not believe that either side, India or Pakistan actually wants a war.
Describing the situation between India and Pakistan as a grave crisis, he said that the main purpose of his visit had been to hear Pakistan's side of the story and to make his position, and that of the international community, clear.
The Foreign Secretary said:
"... it is the job of the international community, it is the job of Foreign Ministers to do everything we can to try to avert a crisis, but no Foreign Minister has it in his or her hands to prevent the parties to this bilateral dispute going to war if they so determine it."
Read an edited transcript of the interview Mr Straw gave to BBC radio in Islamabad below.
Foreign Secretary, have your talks with President Musharraf given you any hope that a war can be averted in this region?
Well my talks with President Musharraf were constructive and forthright. We are all in hope in this situation. I do not believe that either side, India or Pakistan actually wants a war, but this is one of these desperately complex and bitter disputes in which a war could nonetheless take place. So it is the job of the international community, it is the job of Foreign Ministers to do everything we can to try to avert a crisis, but no Foreign Minister has it in his or her hands to prevent the parties to this bilateral dispute going to war if they so determine it.
Did you feel that President Musharraf wanted to go to war?
I don't believe that believe President Musharraf or Prime Minister Vajpayee wants to go to war. I believe that both sides recognise the terrible damage, appalling damage, that would be done not only in terms of lives lost but also to the economies of the whole of the region if war was to take place, but wars sometimes do take place and do cause such death and destruction. The whole region faces a grave crisis at the moment, what we have to do is to encourage both sides to this bilateral dispute to step back from the brink by a series of measures.
Did you pick up any hint that there was any behind the scenes movement, any suggestion for example that the militants might agree to a cease-fire?
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I am not going to go into detail of what I discussed in my lengthy meeting with President Musharraf because that was confidential. What I did seek to do was to secure a better understanding from President Musharraf of the position of Pakistan, of his government, and also to offer him a clearer understanding of the position of the international community so far as Pakistan is concerned which is a clear expectation on Pakistan, as on every other member state of the United Nations, to bear down effectively and comprehensively on all forms of terrorism, including and in particular in this case cross-border terrorism.
And do you have a message to take to the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee, about President Musharraf's commitment to do that?
I have not come here as a messenger or a go-between, let's be clear about this, I have come here as the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom with a long historic association in the region, profoundly concerned as we are as members of the Security Council and of course having very large Indian and Pakistani communities in our own country, to secure a better understanding of Pakistan's position and a better understanding of India's position and to share our understanding and the understanding of the international community about the gravity of the situation. But this is a bilateral dispute and it can in the end only be resolved bilaterally by the parties, it is they, not the international community, that have a million men under arms, India and Pakistan between them, and they too who have nuclear weapons and the capacity to use them.