US rejects Pak demand for plebiscite in Kashmir
19 July 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Washington DC: Rejecting Islamabad’s persistant demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir in accordance to the UN resolution, the US today said it favoured the settlement of the problem bilaterally between India and Pakistan in accordance with the Shimla Accord and hoped the coming Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir would lead to the resolution of the issue. The US earlier did support the UN resolution calling for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. ''But in 1972, India and Pakistan reached an agreement that it would be a bilateral issue. We support India and Pakistan (for settling the issue bilaterally). We are working towards getting the two countries to the table,'' US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca said. At a hearing to the House International Relations Subcommittee, she expressed for the first time the US belief that the forthcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir could serve as a first step towards resolution of the issue. Rocca also stressed the importance of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf ending crossborder infiltration permanently. She said in a prepared statement that the encouraging progress in South Asia toward prosperity and democracy is too often overshadowed by the specter of war between India and Pakistan. ''We remain deeply concerned over the high levels of tension between India and Pakistan and in particular about the continued deployment of forces along their shared border and within Kashmir,'' she said. A surge in violence could spark a military confrontation, with long lasting and devastating consequences for the entire region, Rocca said. ''The enemies of moderation in the region are aware of this fact and are trying to exploit it through high-profile terrorist attacks, such as that outside Jammu this past Saturday'' killing 28 people, she said. Rocca said that as Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is slated to visit India and Pakistan later this month, has put it, war is just not an option for India and Pakistan. The only way forward that offers a prospect of genuinely resolving their differences is the path of dialogue and confidence-building. The US, she said, is working to help the two sides find mutually acceptable ways to begin the de- escalation process. ''President Musharraf,'' she pointed out, ''has pledged that infiltration into Kashmir from his country will end permanently. Pakistan needs to keep that pledge in order to begin a process of resolution of the immediate crisis and of its more fundamental differences with India.'' Once tensions begin to subside, said Rocca, the process should be continued by New Delhi agreeing to resume talks with Islamabad on all issues, including Kashmir. ''We are also supportive,'' said Rocca, ''of Indian efforts to conduct free and fair elections in the State of Kashmir scheduled for later this year, and to begin to address grievances of Kashmiri people,'' she said. ''Such elections could proceed with much greater chance of success in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation and serve as a first step towards resolution of the issue. Finally, we will continue to offer our good offices in helping the two sides resume dialogue to resolve their differences,'' Rocca said. The US and others in the international community are staying fully engaged with both countries (India and Pakistan) to reduce current tensions and to help them get on course to resolve their differences, she said. This week, British Foreign Secretary Straw is making his second trip there since May. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretry of State Richard Armitage were there in June. Rocca said that the Pakistani Foreign Minister condemned the terrorist attack in Jammu. Asked whether President Musharraf denounced the attack, she said she did not know. She promised to find out. Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman meanwhile, said, ''there remain questions over Musharraf’s commitment to stopping infiltration and closing up the terrorist camps... The heinous attacks in Jammu last weekend and on Tuesday in Anantnag, show that the terrorists have not given up and that they intend to disrupt the elections planned for October.'' The US, he said, must continue to insist that Musharraf keep his commitment to stop cross-border infiltration and to close up the terrorist camps that remain in Pakistan.