WASHINGTON: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has defended India’s nuclear tests on grounds of self-defence but, at the same time, discounted US fears about the possibility of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
Replying to questions at the National Press Club here yesterday, he said Kashmir was not much of a flash-point, as feared in certain circles in the United States. Neither India nor Pakistan would resort to the weapons of mass destruction against each, he added.
He said India would never use atomic weapons against Pakistan. It was a weapon of last resort. However, it was important for India to demonstrate its might, bringing home the fact that "we are capable of defending ourselves, if the situation so warrants."
In this context, he referred to China, which, in view, is the most favoured nation for the United States. The Chief Minister expressed happiness at the United States’ reported decision to sell early warning radar system to Taiwan that will allow it monitor the launch of Chinese ballistic missiles or manned bombers.
Dr Abdullah was hopeful about the process of normalisation set in motion by the "Lahore summit" between the Prime Minister of the India and Pakistan and wanted the new Government to be formed in New Delhi after the elections to maintain this momentum.
The Chief Minister was concerned about militancy in his state. Though the intensity of terrorism, which began in Jammu and Kashmir some eight years ago, was much less now, he urged the Clinton administration to use its good offices with Pakistan to stop abetting and exciting violent activities in the Valley.
He said this had been the central theme of his discussions in Washington with Congressmen, officials in the State Department and think tanks.
He said Pakistan should control agencies which supported violent activities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, affecting his Government’s effort at rebuilding the infrastructure which got badly damaged during the long period of insurgency.
Around the time, Dr Abdullah was addressing the media, the State Department released its annual report on global terrorism which said, "as in previous years, there were continuing credible reports of official Pakistani support for Kashmir militant groups that engaged in terrorism."
He said his Government was making all possible efforts to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits who had been living in camps for the last several years. There were about 8000 such families, involving about 1.5 lakh people.
Yesterday, some representatives of the Kashmiri Pandits met him here and urged prompt steps to ensure that they should go back to their homes in full security. He also had discussions with Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone on the subject.
Dr Abdullah recalled Kashmir’s long tradition of communal harmony and said he was trying to restore it. And that was the real beauty of the state, he added.
The US realises New Delhi will not accept any third party mediation over Kashmir and that only a settlement evolved by the India and Pakistan will be acceptable to everyone, he said.
Abdullah said he was confident that many of the Indo-Pak problems will be resolved gradually through the process initiated by Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s Lahore visit.
The Chief Minister, however, sounded pragmatic saying maybe Kashmir will take time to settle but most of the other problems will be sorted out earlier.
People on both the countries are intelligent enough to understand that they should not destroy in a second what they have built up over 50 years, he added.
Abdullah said that even under the Vajpayee-led caretaker government visit will not stop and official level meetings will continue.
Non-Governmental Organisations from India and Pakistan were meeting regularly and forging friendly relations at different levels, he said, adding that terrorists cannot stop the Lahore process by killing minorities in Kashmir.
Kashmir has paid a heavy price for Pakistan’s proxy war which has destroyed a good number of the state’s schools, colleges, hospitals, bridges and roads, he said.
During the initial stage of insurgency in the state, the Chief Minister said, local people were part of it but today the terrorist movement is being sustained by infiltration from across the border by Afghans, Pakistanis and others.
About the Kashmiri Pandits who have been forced to migrate from the Valley, Abdullah said that most of them may be expected to come back soon as situation is fast improving. (Agencies)
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