US sees Kashmir massacre as threat to regional peace
30 March 2003
WASHINGTON: Avoiding the conflict between Pakistan and India is perhaps the most daunting challenge for the US in South Asia, says Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina B. Rocca. She was speaking at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations earlier this week, details of which were released on Sunday by the State Department. Ms Rocca also said the recent terrorist attack in Kashmir 'threatens to provoke yet another crisis in the coming months'. During the hearing, Ms Rocca covered a wide range of issues confronting Pakistan from the October elections to military ties with the United States. 'We were deeply shocked and disturbed by the last Sunday's terrorist attack in the south of Srinagar, which killed 24 innocent civilians,' she said. 'This cowardly act apparently aimed at disrupting the Jammu and Kashmir state government's bold efforts to restore peace and religious harmony to this troubled state,' said Ms Rocca, reiterating Washington's confidence in the state government in the Indian occupied Kashmir. She said the US had 'no preferred solutions for Kashmir', but believed 'that violence will not provide a way forward, and should cease immediately'. Referring to state elections in Srinagar, she said through these elections Kashmiris had 'demonstrated a desire to move forward with a peaceful and political solution'. Their efforts should be supported by all sides, she added. Ms Rocca said 'We look to Pakistan to do everything in its power to prevent extremist groups operating from its soil from crossing the Line of Control.' She said Pakistan had taken steps to curb infiltration, but Washington was asking the Pakistani government to 'redouble its efforts'. The United States, she said, would also use its influence to continue to press both India and Pakistan to take confidence-building steps. Such measures lead to a process of engagement, addressing all issues that divide them, including Kashmir, she added. 'We were encouraged by the results of last fall's state elections in Kashmir and view them as the first step in a broader process that can promote peace,' she said. US relations with Pakistan had broadened significantly. 'Starting with our solid partnership in the war on terror, we have expanded the relationship and have re-established a USAID programme, providing education, democracy, economic development and health assistance,' she added.