US wishes to help peace in Kashmir: Inderfurth
10 March 2000
Washington DC: The US has again expressed a “desire to be of assistance” in resolving the Kashmir issue besides helping resume the Lahore process between India and Pakistan and said it was “hopeful” that the upcoming visit of President Bill Clinton would contribute towards it. “We are hopeful that this (President Bill Clinton’s upcoming) trip will, in some fashion, contribute to the effort that must be made to bring about a resolution of the tragedy of Kashmir,” assistant secretary of state Karl F. Inderfurth said on Thursday. “The President has made it very clear in his public statements that he would like to be of whatever assistance he can be in that process. But we recognise that this must be dealt with by the two countries themselves,” Mr Inderfurth said at the US Institute of Peace during a seminar. “But we do think that we can be of help and support in that process if it is undertaken,” he said, adding conflict resolution, Kashmir and concerns about heightened tension would be the focus of discussion during Mr Clinton’s trip. “Tensions are higher now than they have been since the last Indo-Pakistan war in 1971,” he said, adding, “We are concerned that through misunderstandings or through gradual escalation, the two countries could once again find themselves in conflict.” Mr Clinton believes, he said, it was crucial that he carried a message of restraint and dialogue to both the nations. “He (Clinton) wants to assure that we have lines of communication that may be necessary in a crisis, the kind of relationship that enabled him to play the effective role he did with Nawaz Sharif last July,” Mr Inderfurth said, referring to the then Pakistani Prime Minister’s Washington visit which led to withdrawal of Pakistani intruders from Kargil. “The President will go to Pakistan, because the Pakistani nation is a friend, not because he approves of, or acquiesces in, the government of General Pervez Musharraf,” Mr Inderfurth said, adding, “He is not going to mediate in the Kashmir dispute.” “These interests include avoiding the threat of a conflict in South Asia, promoting the return of democracy to Pakistan fighting terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and creating an environment of regional peace and security,” he said. Referring to the Kargil crisis following the positive signals emanating from the Lahore Declaration and the coup in Pakistan, he said, “These have not been positive developments, ... But we are hopeful that in some fashion there can be a return, if not to Lahore, at least the spirit of dialogue that animated that.” “We believe there are those in both countries that want this (Kashmir) issue resolved,” he added.