Change attitude towards Pakistan, Musharraf tells India

NEW DELHI Sat Mar 7, 2009 2:38pm EST

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India and Pakistan must change the way they treat each other and bury a "dirty past" to tackle growing militancy in the region together, Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf said on Saturday.

"The past has been dirty, the past has been bad, but don't put the blame on Pakistan," Musharraf said at a media event in New Delhi late on Saturday. "You tried to do damage to us, we were not sitting idle, we tried to damage you."

He said both countries were to be blamed for decades of mistrust and dispute, but now need to move ahead.

"There is a need for attitudal change, more in India less in Pakistan," the former army general said, referring to India's regular allegations that Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Pakistan army were behind militant strikes in India.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and came to the brink of a fourth after gunmen attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001.

India also paused talks on a peace process between the two countries after it blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai attacks last November in which nearly 170 people died.

India says its nuclear-armed rival has done little to clamp down on militant activity on its soil.

Musharraf asked India to stop what he described as "Pakistan bashing" and instead urged New Delhi to help the ISI and Pakistan's army fight militancy in the region.

"Help the Pakistan army and the ISI to tackle them (militants) and please don't malign them," the former army chief said, adding that Pakistan's army and the ISI wanted peace with India.

The former president, who stepped down in August last year, said the army and the ISI were the best bets to fight the growing influence of the Taliban and militancy in Pakistan.

"Please don't create misunderstanding in the world against the ISI and the army," he said.

Pakistani authorities have been criticized after gunmen fired at the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on Tuesday.

"Pakistan is critical under the present circumstances to fight terrorism and extremism, Pakistan is critical to bring peace in the region," Musharraf said.

The former army general said the solution to end militancy in the region lay in finding a peaceful solution for Kashmir.

(Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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