September 2002 News

U.S. hopes for violence-free polls in Jammu and Kashmir

5 September 2002
The Hindu
B Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD: The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, has said that the international community was looking forward to a violence-free election to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, as a first step towards resolution of the issue. Briefing a group of editors and senior journalists from Pakistan, who are now in Washington at the invitation of the State Department, Mr. Armitage said that ''our concern is (that) the election are free of violence.'' Mr. Armitage told the group that he was very pleased when the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, said in his last meeting with him in Islamabad (August 24) that as a ''general proposition'' any election should be free of violence. He told the journalists that Kashmir was on the international agenda like never before and there was a lot of concern in the world community to see that it is resolved. He said that world heavy-weights such as Russia, Great Britain, Sweden, China and Germany had joined hands with the U.S. to create a ''congenial atmosphere'' for the resolution of the dispute. At the same time, ''we still believe that the solution has to be reached between the two parties together.'' In response to a question on the U.S. view of the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Armitage said that ''the U.S. feels that free and fair election in the Valley would be an expression of the will of the people and may help a movement forward. It has to be seen whether it gets broader participation.'' When a correspondent told him that India had not agreed to the suggestion on international observers, Mr. Armitage said New Delhi would welcome foreign diplomats based in the capital to travel and observe the polls. Asked what would be the U.S. response if the turnout was poor as before, Mr. Armitage said the U.S. would not try to ''pre-judge'' results. ''What New Delhi probably wanted to convey was that if the elections were held free of violence, she would be ready to resume the dialogue.'' He dismissed the impression that the U.S. shuttle diplomacy had not been a success and urged journalists to take a more balanced view of the situation as there was movement from either side. On Islamabad''s pledge for ending infiltration across the Line of Control, he said the U.S. had not sought it as concession from Islamabad but it was a decision coming from mature leadership (of President Musharraf) who was trying to find a proper way to bring down temperatures. About Pak.-U.S. relations, he conceded that in the past these relations were like a ''marriage of convenience'' but the situation in Afghanistan gave both countries an opportunity to try to re-define the relationship without any third party involvement. ''It''s going to be a long-term relations free of third country strings. We are working hard to make sure that this relationship works. We realise the mistakes we made in the past but Pakistan also made some mistakes. There is, however, now a qualitative difference as reflected from the words of President Musharraf and his colleagues,'' he told the group. He was all praise for the cooperation extended by Pakistan under trying circumstances in the fight against terrorism. ''We have great admiration for the efforts being rendered by the Pakistan Army, police and intelligence services towards the war against terrorism.'' Mr. Armitage disagreed that the U.S. did nothing against cooperation extended by Islamabad and said that $1 billion debt relief and $6 00 million assistance package had been provided. He disclosed that Congress is working on yet another package. About military assistance to Pakistan, including provision of F-16 aircraft, he said that the U.S. is not ready to transfer any advanced military technology to any of the two countries until the tension is down. On restoration of democracy in Pakistan he told the group that ''I think it is incumbent upon President Musharraf to be able to spell out to the nation as well as the international community his vision for returning Pakistan to complete civilian democratic governance.''.


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