IRAN GAS PIPELINE IN PAKISTAN'S ECONOMIC INTEREST
President Musharraf mounted a strong defense at World Economic Forum on Pakistan's plans for a natural gas pipeline with Iran
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Feb 06 - 12, 2006
Pakistan rightly pointed out significance of Iran gas pipeline project to cater to its economic needs as an alternative source of energy especially on the back of ever increasing oil prices in the international market.
President Pervez Musharraf mounted a strong defense on Pakistan's plans for a natural gas pipeline with Iran. With Washington openly hostile to Iran, President Musharraf asserted that the pipeline, which also involves India, was a purely economic project that had nothing to do with the row over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
It is purely an economic deal, he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "as it does not conflict at all with our stand on the nuclear issue".
Tehran, it may be mentioned, is closed to an accord with India and Pakistan for the 2600-km pipeline costing over $7 billion. The United States, earlier this month had expressed that it was absolutely opposed to the project.
President Musharraf pointed out that many other countries had already imported energy from Iran, and there was no reason why Pakistan should not do the same. "We need energy to feed Pakistan's surging economy," the President added. "We are looking at all sorts of energy," the President had said in a separate interview published in Financial Times, adding that he had no plans to ditch the deal.
"Our industrial growth and foreign direct investment depend on the availability of energy," he said, adding, "We are proceeding with the pipeline as it is in our economic interest and if somebody wants to stop us they should compensate us, but at the moment we are going ahead."
Speaking about the Kashmir issue President Musharraf called on India to join Pakistan to work out a solution that could lead to self-governance and make the line of control irrelevant.
President Musharraf urged a step by step approach that would start with defining Kashmir's borders and end with a joint cross-border administration.
"I am extremely flexible and I am bold enough to go for an out-of-box solution. But we cannot clap with one hand, I expect India to join.
"Grasp these fleeting moments at this time, "fleeting moments come and go. It is incumbent on all leaders to grasp these moments, otherwise they are not leaders," he said.
Pakistani officials accompanying Gen. Musharraf at the annual gathering of political and business heavyweights in Davos, said that his comments were clearest to date.
He said that once Kashmir's geographical status was defined, the whole province would be demilitarized. It would then get a self-governing administration-short of independence but more than autonomy-and officials from Kashmir, India and Pakistan would jointly manage the area on both sides of the current line of control.
By doing that, he said "we have made the Line of Control irrelevant.
The Pakistani leader warned that if a solution did not come soon, political changes could make it impossible later. "We need to move forward. If we do not do that, permanent peace cannot be guaranteed in the region. No leader is permanent," he said.
President Musharraf admitted that while the confidence building side of the talks was progressing, dispute resolution focusing on Kashmir was lagging.
He proposed step-by-step solution, saying it would require compromise from all sides and Pakistan will not step back unilaterally.
Leaders from Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Pakistan also discussed the Muslim countries' fractious relations with the West and urged the world community to foster better understanding of Islam to promote cultural harmony.
The discussion at the World Economic Forum has switched from areas such as terrorism and modernization to the nuclear balance in the Middle East.
Queen Rania of Jordan told the audience that terror groups, which used Islam to justify attacks, had "led the Muslim world to a critical crossroads of self-examination and self-definition".
President Pervez Musharraf argued that tensions had more to do with Westernisation, rather than democratic values or modernization.
"If you are talking of Westernization, yes, that is in conflict with Islam and Islamic teachings because we have our different values. It was normal for all cultures to maintain their respective identifies," he added.
But Haji Alhasani, President of the Iraq National Assembly, argued that Muslim intellectuals and reformers saw more of Islam's core values outside the Middle East. "They find Islam more in West than they find it in Muslim countries, mainly because while Islamic philosophers had helped foster human values in the 19th century, the problem with Muslim countries is that you don't find these values and principles implemented within the Muslim society. You find corruption everywhere and Muslim values are against corruption," he added.
The Iraq parliament chief said: "We think democracy is a solution for Muslim nations".
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said it could be difficult to impose the sort of democracy that was presently "the accepted form of government all over the world."
President Musharraf and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan underscored the need for increasing their bilateral trade volume to one billion dollars from the existing $300 million.
It was emphasized that while Pakistan could provide Turkey an access to South Asia, Turkey could play a similar role for Pakistan in Europe.
President Musharraf also identified ways and means to attract greater Turkish investment in Pakistan, particularly in the field of defense production. Both leaders also discussed regional and international issues, including the situation in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining territorial integrity and soverignity of Iraq that borders Turkey.