September 2000 News

Space For A Peace Process

13 September 2000
The Hindu
Malini Parthasarathy

Washington DC: The Clinton administration appears to be working behind the scenes to create political space for the attempts to build a peace process in Kashmir. Mr. Pickering''s discussions with Pakistani and Indian officials have been to the effect that the specific steps taken by India to ease the political context in Kashmir ought to be supported by all the parties in the picture, including Pakistan. Interestingly, the American effort has been to persuade Pakistan to give up its insistence that it be involved in the initial stages of negotiations between India and the Kashmiri militant groups. With Pakistan agreeing to vacate space for India to have its own negotiations with the militants, India in turn would be expected to acknowledge at some stage that Pakistan would have a necessary role in the eventual resolution of the Kashmir issue. Contrary to what Indian officials have been maintaining, the Clinton administration does not appear to be endorsing India''s position that a dialogue with Pakistan is not possible until cross-border terrorism completely ends. Administration sources said that while the United States Government agrees that specific steps were required of Pakistan after the traumatic experience of Kargil, such as reducing the level of infiltration and helping to lower the violence in Kashmir by exerting influence on the militant groups active in the Valley, certain steps were also required of India. For instance, India would have to persevere with its current efforts at dialogue with the militant groups and the Indian Army would have to reciprocate as it did in the case of the Hizb, by ceasing operations when the militant groups offer ceasefire. But more significantly, India''s insistence that it would not talk to Pakistan until cross-border terrorism ended, is not seen as realistic by Washington. India could expect tangible steps from Pakistan towards reducing the level of violence but could not place the onus of ending terrorism in Kashmir entirely on Pakistan, which could not be linked to every act of violence in Kashmir, administration sources pointed out. Thereby, at some stage and at some point in time, it would be incumbent on India to engage Pakistan in the peace process, in order to achieve a lasting solution.


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