Gandhi Appeals for Peace on Trip to Rival Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India said Sunday that regional stability lies in friendship, not military strength, and called for an end to the longstanding conflict between his nation and Pakistan.
″It falls upon us to silence the guns that have given no peace and to seek the enduring solutions that only peaceful coexistence can ensure,″ Gandhi said at a banquet held for his visit by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Since the predominately Moslem Pakistan was carved from Hindu-dominated India in 1947, the two nations have gone to war three times.
Ms. Bhutto told a news conference earlier in the day that Gandhi’s visit was the first step in a long process toward reconciliation.
″You know for a long journey, you have to take a first little step and only then can you reach your destination,″ she said.
At the banquet, Ms. Bhutto said: ″We should ensure that south Asia remains free of nuclear weapons.″
Tensions between the nations have been exacerbated in recent years with reports that both countries have programs to make nuclear weapons.
Pakistan and India, which has successfully tested a nuclear device, deny they are making nuclear arms but refuse to open their facilities to international inspection.
Gandhi, who was given a 19-gun salute upon his arrival earlier in the day, met with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and later with Ms. Bhutto.
The substance of the talks between the prime ministers was not disclosed, but one topic was believed to have been the 10-year war in neighboring Afghanistan. Another was believed to have been the disputed region of Kashmir.
Ms. Bhutto and Gandhi are to hold a joint news conference Monday morning before Gandhi’s return to India.
Eleven political parties from Kashmir organized a protest march in the nearby city of Rawalpindi to coincide with Gandhi’s arrival.
″We want a unified Kashmir whether it is part of Pakistan or an independent state,″ said Sultan Mahmood Chowdry of the Azad Moslem Conference.
Indian and Pakistani troops face each other from outposts at the disputed northern end of Kashmir in the Himalayan Mountains.
Chowdry said Kashmir residents want to put into effect a 1949 U.N. resolution calling for a plebiscite on the future of region.
Gandhi arrived in Pakistan from a visit to Moscow, the major backer of the communist government in Afghanistan. Pakistan and the United States are the main supporters of the Afghan guerrillas.
Pakistan wants a political settlement that excludes the current rulers in Kabul.