September 2000 News

India, Pakistan Have To Move Ahead On Kashmir

14 September 2000
The Hindu
Sridhar Krishnaswami

Washington DC: The Clinton administration is aware of India''s concerns over the level of violence in Kashmir, an issue which it has raised directly with Pakistan authorities, with the purpose of pointing out that for the dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad to begin, more positive conditions must be created on the ground. This is what senior officials said briefing the South Asian media on the eve of the start of the official visit of the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, to Washington. ''Now, one would have to be realistic in assessing that situation on the ground, but if there is movement in the right direction, if it is creating that favourable environment which would indicate seriousness and sincerity on what the sides are doing then we would hope that would lead to a resumption of dialogue,'' a senior official commented pointing out that it was not for the U.S. to determine whether enough had been done by the parties to create a proper atmosphere but that both India and Pakistan could take steps to create the proper environment. ''We do believe that Pakistan has a role to play in lowering the level of activity along the Line of Control. Clearly, cross- border shelling is an example of that... And we believe that Pakistan has influence which it can use. There are groups that are operating in Kashmir that are clearly beyond the control of almost any single government or entity, but again we believe that Pakistan has the important role to play here and we have urged it in virtually everyway... to use that influence. We think that both sides have steps they could take to create that more positive environment...'' the official said. ''We remain concerned about the situation in Kashmir itself and indeed we remained concerned about the tragedy of the Kashmiri people. At some point, that will have to be addressed. We hope that it could be sooner than later.'' The senior administration officials are saying Kashmir will be a subject of discussion between the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, and Mr. Vajpayee. The U.S. has been encouraged by some of the steps taken by India but there is still ''quite a distance to go''. Mr. Clinton, officials say, will want to hear Mr. Vajpayee''s assessment of the issue. He will encourage Mr. Vajpayee on what he has done, at the same time sharing his thoughts on the subject, it is said. On sanctions, the argument was made that while the U.S. was searching for a broadbased relationship with India, this did not mean that all issues had been resolved with the two sides continuing to address non-proliferation and sanctions, but as part of a larger agenda. It was reiterated that unless there was more progress on the non-proliferation agenda, the bilateral cooperation would not realise its full potential. Arguing that ''we are making progress,'' senior officials said the remaining sanctions linked to the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty included not only a ban on direct military sales and licences for export of ammunition but also restrictions on multilateral institutional loans pertaining to ''non-basic human needs''. ''... we do believe it is important to make progress on the non- proliferation agenda...We do want to emphasise that on the issue of CTBT, what we most want to see is a decision taken by India (meaning to sign) because it is in India''s interest to see no further testing by any nation in the world. That is the key issue,'' the official argued, going on to say that the differences between the administration and some senior law-makers were not over the principle of removing sanctions but on how this was done. Mr. Clinton, a senior official maintained, was very excited about the visit of Mr. Vajpayee which is seen as the culmination of a process that the U.S. President had been working on for eight years. Pointing out that Mr. Clinton had been keen on finding a whole new paradigm for U.S.-India relations, the official said Mr. Clinton had already stressed that on virtually every issue India was already an important player, and it would be more so in the 21st century. The focus of the discussions between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Vajpayee will at least be on three major levels: the review of the global trends, and a discussion of the common concerns of fighting terrorism and the political dynamics of the South Asian sub- continent. All of this within the main focus of how to keep the bilateral relations moving to a higher level. Maintaining that there would be the continuity on what had been achieved by way of the Vision Statement and institutionalisation of the dialogue, officials briefing the media pointed to all the things that had taken place since Mr. Clinton visited India this March. ''We are proceeding at a very important phase of putting the institutional dialogue in place,'' a senior official noted. Aside from the telephone conversations between the President and the Prime Minister, this includes the foreign policy dialogue involving the Secretary of State and India''s Minister for External Affairs, the Foreign Office Consultations, the Working Group on Counter Terrorism, the Coordinating Group on Economic Dialogue, and the Joint Consultative Group on Clean Energy. ''We bequeath to the next administration a solid enough foundation which will endure,'' an official remarked.


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