September 2000 News

Be Careful In Kashmir: United States

16 September 2000
The Asian Age
Ashish Kumar Sen

Washington DC: Senior US officials have said the Clinton administration has not seen a sufficient diminution in the level of violence in Kashmir. Making this observation, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Rick Inderfurth, said Mr Clinton had noted from his experience in dealing with political problems similar to Kashmir that ''you have to expect that the road to a better future will be a bumpy one and that it requires a great deal of patience and perseverance in order to get there.'' Mr Rick Inderfurth was addressing journalists at the White House on Friday afternoon. Senior director, Near East and South Asian affairs and national security council, Bruce Riedel, who was also present at the briefing, added that the Clinton administration had been ''concerned about the connections between some elements in Pakistan, and what goes on in Kashmir.'' ''We do believe Pakistan has a role to play, both in resolving the Kashmir problem and in helping to diffuse tensions there,'' Mr Bruce Riedel said. Meanwhile, in a bid to stem the controversy that arose following President Clinton''s earlier description of Kashmir as the ''core issue'' between India and Pakistan, senior US officials said the President''s use of that terminology ''in no way indicated any change in the US position.'' Senior director, Near East and South Asian affairs and national security council, Bruce Riedel told reporters at a White House press briefing on Friday, ''core issue'' was a phrase ''frequently used by Pakistani leaders in discussing Kashmir.'' ''The United States'' position was clearly laid out by the President Bill Clinton when he was in New Delhi, when he was in Islamabad, and he reaffirmed that position on Saturday to the Prime Minister, Mr Riedel said, referring to Mr Clinton''s often-repeated mantra of the ''four Rs.'' President Clinton maintains that restraint on both sides, respect of the Line of Control, denunciation of violence, and at the appropriate time when the atmosphere is correct, a return to a dialogue between India and Pakistan. ''We do regard Kashmir as an important issue between the two, one of the central issues that obviously needs to be resolved. But I think to read into the President''s use of the word ''core'' any tilt whatsoever would be a mistake,'' Mr Riedel said. He assured that in the end, ''it is not up to America to resolve this issue, and we have said repeatedly, and we reaffirmed it today, that we are not a mediator, we do not intend to put American-planned or an American negotiator out there.'' He added that some principles did make sense and one of these was that the wishes of the Kashmiri people had to be accommodated in this process. On the issue of non-proliferation the officials said the Clinton administration was hopeful that when the Winter Session of Parliament begins in India in November the CTBT would be brought up for debate, and that in the meantime, additional efforts will be made to build a national consensus. Members of Parliament were unable to debate the issue of the CTBT as Parliament was adjourned following Union power minister P.R. Kumaramangalam''s death. ''We are making some progress in this (non-proliferation) area. And, as the President said, the Indians have reaffirmed that they will continue their voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive tests until the comprehensive test ban treaty comes into effect, subject to its supreme national interests, which is a clause that is contained in the CTBT,'' Mr Riedel said. He added that the US had reaffirmed its intention to work for ratification of the treaty at the earliest possible date. ''We, too, have had difficulty developing a, if you will, national consensus on this issue,'' Mr Riedel admitted. Commenting on the issue of non-proliferation Mr Inderfurth said: ''This will be the first time we have spelled out in a statement with the Indian government its intention to continue its voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests until CTBT comes into effect. This is a new element.'' Both President Clinton as well as vice-president Al Gore had said India should sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty not as a favour to the United States and not to get sanctions lifted, but because a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, endorsed by the entire world, is in ''the national interest of India as well as other countries in the world.''


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