June 1998 News


Sever Links with Militant Groups, US Envoy Tells Pakistan

29th June 1998

WASHINGTON, (IANS): US Ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas Simons has urged Islamabad to end all ties with terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir.

Simons wrote to Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF) president Vijay Sazawal: "I have urged them (the Pakistani Government) to cut all ties to groups such as the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which carry out terrorist acts on Kashmiri soil."

In a letter dated June 2, the envoy promised he would "continue to advocate a peaceful and equitable resolution of the Kashmir dispute and an end to any and all assistance to terrorist groups." Simons had written to Sazawal after receiving a letter from Nancy Rubin, the US representative to the UN Conference on Human Rights in Geneva, saying that the plight of Kashmiri Hindus deserved the American administration's attention. She also forwarded an IAKF memorandum detailing the problems faced by the Kashmiri Pandits as a result of insurgency in the Kashmir Valley.

"I share your concern about the ongoing conflict in Kashmir especially the toll it has taken on innocent civilians over the past 10 years", Simons said in his letter to Sazawal.

The envoy said, "The recent massacres of Pandits in Indian held Kashmir, and of villagers in Pakistani-held Kashmir, were especially deplorable and illustrate how desperately peace is needed in this war-torn region."

Simons said that "during my almost three years as Ambassador to Pakistan, I have consistently raised with Pakistani officials the need to find a resolution to the Kashmiri dispute, one that takes into account the wishes of all Kashmiris-Pandits and Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.

In March, US Ambassador India Richard Celeste had written to Congressman Sherrod Brown the staunchest supporter of the cause of the Pandits in Capitol Hill, saying, "...1 will do all that I can here to encourage a responsible attitude on the part of the Government of India."

If the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus has received any attention at all in the halls of Congress and the administration, it is larger to the IAKF, which was formed in 1991 by a small group of Kashmiri professionals residing in the country.

Today the lot of the Kashmiri Pandits is mentioned in the State Department's annual human rights report and Brown has only kept the pressure on the administration to alleviate plight but also kept the issue alive.

While acknowledging that the help of lawmakers like Brown and the efforts of members of IAKF, the plight of the Pandits have pricked the conscience of some in the administration Congress, Sazawal said the struggle is still uphill as it takes or well-heeled and well-financed Kashmiri American Council (KAC) which espouses independence for Kashmir and has a powerful lobbying firm backing its efforts.

Sazawal expressed regret despite all the information that is available on the atrocious conditions that Pandits who have fled the valley now live under in different parts of India. New Delhi is still to effect tangible changes to arrest the slow but sure genocide of the Pandits "who have become refugees in their own country and their culture is on the brink of extinction."


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