March 2001 News

UN admits it has no role in JK

16 March 2001
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Apart from calling on India and Pakistan to resume talks, the United Nations has "limited options" over the Kashmir issue, according to the spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Spokesman Fred Eckhard said Annan, who arrived Thursday on the final leg of a South Asian tour, has no plans to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders. Eckhard noted there was an "unhealthy obsession" and "hysterical" focus on Kashmir whenever a foreign visitor passed through New Delhi or Islamabad. Earlier in the week, Abdul Gani Lone, leader of an umbrella group of Kashmiri separatist outfits, had said he was "very optimistic" about a possible meeting with Annan. But Eckhard said Annan had met no Kashmiri leader during the Pakistan leg of his tour. "There was no meeting in Pakistan, why would he meet them here?" Eckhard said. Asked whether the UN stand would not come as a great disappointment for the Kashmiris, Eckhard said: "India does not want us to get involved at all... there is nothing we can do," besides pressing New Delhi and Islamabad to "resume dialogue." Earlier, Annan told reporters after arriving in New Delhi: "The important thing is for the engagement to begin ... this is the right time for India and Pakistan to resume a dialogue." Talks were frozen nearly two years ago when Indian and Pakistani armies clashed briefly in the Kargil sector of Kashmir, sparking international concern over the state of ties between the nuclear neighbours. India has refused to resume direct talks until Pakistan stops sponsoring "cross-border terrorism" - a charge Islamabad denies. New Delhi controls two-thirds of Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in the Indian union. Islamabad controls the rest of the Himalayan state, the cause of two of the three wars in the sub-continent partitioned in 1947. A Muslim separatist rebellion on the Indian side has claimed more than 34,000 lives since 1989. "It's a bloody mess," Eckhard said, adding that Annan was aware of the Kashmiri people's 'suffering" but that he thought it prudent to utter "not the K word" in India, a major UN member. The United Nations wants to know whether India, which has maintained a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir since November, is 'serious" about pursuing a political solution while an eventual resumption of dialogue was "in the air," Eckhard said. During his stay in New Delhi, Annan was to meet President K.R Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. However, Annan was carrying no message from Pakistani leaders, Eckhard said. Besides the Kashmir issue, Annan's talks with Indian leaders were expected to touch on developmental issues, UN reforms and peacekeeping, security and good governance. Annan's three-day visit is the last leg of a tour that has taken him to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.


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