July 2002 News

I won''t say sorry about Kashmir, says Straw

9 July 2002
The Times of India

London: Ten days before he visits India and Pakistan for talks, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw refused on Tuesday to apologise for Britain’s colonial role in creating the Kashmir tangle. Admitting, however, ''Kashmir is in the category of being not so good'' a legacy of Britain’s colonial past, Straw said it would be ''laughable'' for him to apologise for ''what the British government did when I was two''. Straw’s comments form part of a lengthy exchange of emails between visitors to the BBC’s website, in what the British foreign office told TNN was ''an attempt to explain the situation to those who do not know much about it''. Straw, whose third visit to the sub- continent this year is tentatively expected to begin in New Delhi on July 19, affirmed that the UK’s engagement will continue, though progress depended on ''an end to cross-border infiltration, on the Pakistani side, action to deal with the terrorist camps and on the Indian side more action to deal with the human rights deficit in Jammu and Kashmir.'' Straw, who insisted in June that cross-border terrorism had significantly lessened after General Musharraf discussed the situation with him and US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, admitted on Tuesday that verification was ''inherently intrinsically difficult''. But he insisted that there ''has been some progress''. Straw’s newly-installed Indian counterpart, Yashwant Sinha, recently said border infiltration had not stopped and General Musharraf could not be trusted. Straw also suggested a possible ''role for the UN observers'' in the future, a proposal put forward by Pakistan and rejected by India last month. In a reference to the controversial nature of the proposal, Straw added, ''Such an observer force requires the consent of both sides and at present that has not been forthcoming''. Asked about ''whether there would ever be an independent Kashmir'', Straw answered, ''I am not going to predict the future''. He said that the first step was free and fair elections and he welcomed the Indian chief election commissioner’s ''open invitation'' to foreign diplomats, journalists and NGO members. Asked about what the US and UK could do to resolve the conflict, Straw said both countries had ''influence but we don''t have power and that''s quite proper because we are dealing with two very large sovereign states''. The BBC told this paper it received hundreds of e-mailed questions meant for Straw. Most of them appeared to be from Indians and Pakistanis living abroad.


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