February 2000 News

U.S. will mediate on J&K if asked: Clinton

17 February 2000
The Hindu
By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON: After saying, initially, that India and Pakistan would have to sort out ``this business of Kashmir'' between themselves and that Washington could not get involved unless asked to by the two countries, the President, Mr. Bill Clinton, has made it known now that the United States would ``absolutely'' be willing to get involved to try and help mediate in the Kashmir issue if asked to.

``Absolutely I would. Why? For the same reason we have been involved in Northern Ireland and West Asia, because Number One and most importantly, it is a hugely important area of the world. If the tensions between India and Pakistan on the Indian sub-continent could be resolved, it is my opinion, based on my personal experience with people from India, people from Pakistan and people from Bangladesh, that the sub-continent might very well be the great success story of the next 50 years,'' Mr. Clinton said.

The President said, ``you are talking about people who are basically immensely talented, have a strong work ethic, a deep devotion to their faith and to their families. There is nothing they couldn't do. And it's heartbreaking to me to see how much they hold each other back by being trapped in yesterday's conflicts...''

Secondly, Mr. Clinton said that like Northern Ireland and West Asia, the U.S. ``has been deeply enriched by people from the Indian sub-continent, and I think we are - we might be, because of our population, in a position to make a constructive contribution. But if they (India and Pakistan) don't want us, it won't do any good. We'd just be out there talking into the air, and I'm not in for that.''

At a time when there is speculation in India and elsewhere on what the President would focus on during his visit to the region, Mr. Clinton had this to say in reply when asked what Pakistan's military rulers should do to get him to reconsider a trip to that country. ``I haven't decided whether I'm going to Pakistan or not...and I will make a decision about whether to go based on what I think will best serve our long-term interests, in non-proliferation, in trying to stop particularly a nuclear arms race and trying to help to promote stability, democracy and a resolution of the conflict between India and Pakistan.''

``I think we forget that among some 200 ethnic groups that we have in our country, Indian Americans and Pakistani Americans have been among the most successful in terms of education level and income level. They have worked, have succeeded stunningly well in the U.S. and have astonishingly, may be, had good contacts with one another. And I think the U.S. should be more involved there. And even though I think that they'll have to work out this business of Kashmir between themselves, unless we're asked by both parties to help, we can't get involved,'' Mr. Clinton said.

``We've been in every other case we're involved because both parties have asked us to be involved. But I will make a decision about where to go and what to do based on what I think will further our long-term goals. And I have not reached a final decision.''


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