No change in US position on Kashmir, says Rocca
24 July 2001
New Delhi: The United States Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, stressing upon the resolution of Kashmir issue has said that the US strongly supported senior level engagement between the two neighbour countries. “The Kashmir issue has to be resolved between the parties involved taking into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir,” Rocca told reporters here Tuesday, stressing “the US has no role in this”. Asked whether her comments meant Washington favoured a referendum in Held Kashmir, she said, “This is something for the parties involved to resolve themselves”. Maintaining that the US position on Kashmir has been ‘consistent’, she said, “We are hopeful of a continuing dialogue between India and Pakistan and a resolution of this”. Asked about US perception of the Agra Summit, she said “From our perspective, it is a success. The fact that they met is a positive step”. She said, “We know there was no joint communiqué. It might take more than three days to overcome differences that have divided them for over 50 years”. Christina Rocca told a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry that sanctions against India would be lifted, while calling for a drastic improvement in the country’s investment climate. In a sweeping and generally positive assessment of bilateral ties, Rocca said India had a key role and responsibility in helping secure ‘stable peaceful conditions’ in South Asia and beyond. ‘In this connection, I hardly need to tell you, a review on our sanctions policy is now under way,’ the assistant secretary said. ‘And we will need to work closely with Congress to see how the current situation might be changed. Getting beyond sanctions would do much to deepen the bilateral relationship,’ she added. The United States imposed sanctions against India following its series of underground nuclear blasts in 1998. ‘Nonproliferation remains an important goal of US policy,’ Rocca said. ‘But we want to expand and transform our engagement on defence issues, talking more about potential areas of cooperation while continuing to narrow our differences.’ Her visit here came just one week after the landmark Indo Pakistan summit in Agra, which she praised as an important beginning despite both sides’ failure to seal the talks with a joint declaration. ‘It is important to keep this meeting in perspective,’ Rocca said, pointing out that India and Pakistan were ‘grappling with difficult issues’ which had divided them for more than 50 years. Rocca has held a series of meetings in New Delhi with Indian leaders, including Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra. On the economic front, Rocca’s stance on the state of Indo-US relations was combative. Although the United States is India’s largest trading partner, bilateral trade remains far below ‘what it should be,’ she said. ‘As for investment, US companies are definitely interested in India — but again, quite frankly, the investment climate is far from optimal.’ She said the level of ‘protectionism’ in India remained too high despite the gradual opening of the economy in the past 10 years. ‘This suits some vested interests, I suppose, but clearly impedes overall economic efficiency and growth.’ Rocca particularly highlighted a damaging payments dispute between Maharashtra and a 2.9 billion dollar power project involving US energy giant Enron. The survival of project — the single largest US investment in India — has been threatened by Maharashtra’s refusal to pay what it considers high tariffs charged by the power station. ‘The ongoing dispute ... casts a dark cloud over India’s investment climate,’ Rocca said. ‘It will be difficult for international investors to view India favourably until it is resolved.’ Rocca also urged India to build an effective system to protect intellectual property rights. ‘Today, unfortunately, India does not provide product patent protection for medicines, and is a significant source of pirated items. That is why India is on our special 301 priority watch list,’ she said.