March 2000 News

Clinton's stand on Kashmir: A historic shift?

23 March 2000
C. Raja Mohan

New Delhi: As they pore over the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton''s formulations on Kashmir in a recent television interview, senior officials of the Government are debating whether the decades-long American tilt towards Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir has finally been buried. In an interview to Mr. Peter Jennings of the U.S. television network ABC Tuesday night, Mr. Clinton had offered what could be the most comprehensive articulation of the new stand taken by the U.S. on Kashmir. Expanding on the remarks he made at the joint press conference with the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, on Tuesday morning, Mr. Clinton outlined a set of propositions that amount to an entirely new American line on Kashmir. While senior officials here believe that the Clinton line on Kashmir could mark a big leap towards realism, they are holding their breath before concluding that the U.S. policy on Kashmir has now taken a firm new direction. India would prefer to wait and see if Mr. Clinton''s bold, new formulations are carried forward in a ''consistent and sustained'' manner by his administration over the next few days particularly when the U.S. President goes to Pakistan on Saturday. What indeed has Mr. Clinton said on Kashmir that is attracting so much attention here? Among the key points made by Mr. Clinton are the following. One, events in the Sub-continent have overtaken the United Nations resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir in 1948. Two, rejecting a referendum on independence for Kashmir, Mr. Clinton said he only supports ''some process by which the Kashmiris'' legitimate grievances are addressed''. Insisting that the process must take place within the framework of India''s unity, Mr. Clinton said the U.S. should not take the position ''that an ethnically diverse country like India can''t exist anymore''. Three, he ruled out American intervention on behalf of Pakistan in the Kashmir dispute. Referring to such Pakistani expectations, Mr. Clinton said, ''I am not going to be dragged into something that India doesn''t want us to be part of.'' Four, he confirmed the Indian charges on Pakistan''s involvement in cross-border terrorism. ''I believe that there are elements within the Pakistani government that have supported those who engaged in violence in Kashmir.'' Five, he would try and convince the leadership in Pakistan that violence does not help and it must seek non-violent solutions to its dispute with India over Kashmir. Six, is his message to Indians that they must find ''some way of talking to their Kashmiris'' and recognise that there is no ''military solution'' to the problem. India wants to know if Mr. Clinton is articulating a firm policy position or just airing some passing thoughts that were too good to be true. It should by the end of the week, when Mr. Clinton departs from Pakistan after talking to Gen. Pervez Musharraf.


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