Talbott: We Tried To Put J&K On Agenda
9 July 2004
The Asian Age
Washington DC: Former American deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott had tried to persuade India to include Kashmir on the agenda for normalising Indo-US ties in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests but New Delhi turned down the proposal saying Washington should not play into the hands of Pakistanis by seeing Kashmir as a flashpoint. In his forthcoming book Engaging India - Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb, Mr Talbott writes that US President Bill Clinton was 'drawn to the idea that he might help bring India and Pakistan together, or at least establish for the United States a relationship with both so that American diplomacy might better be able to influence them in a crisis.' After the Indian nuclear tests, in one of his meetings with Jaswant Singh, the then external affairs minister, 'I remarked that Kashmir had already been the casus belli (cause for war) for two wars between India and Pakistan and very nearly several more, (so) that issue too would have to be on the agenda if US-Indian diplomacy were to resume.' 'Jaswant, whose expression was deadpan most of the time' writes Mr Talbott about Mr Singh's response, 'pulled a sour face.' 'Kashmir,' Mr Singh said, 'should be regarded as an issue of 'closed history' and a 'case study in the rather fraught psychology of our neighbours.' 'Americans must be specially careful not to fall into the trap of seeing Kashmir as a flash point because that would only play into the Pakistanis' game of trying to lure us onto their side of a tiresome and pointless argument,' he said. Observing that it (Kashmir) was not 'fitting' as a topic for international diplomacy, Mr Singh said, 'We should not make the Pakistanis' obession with Kashmir make the hard work of improving US-Indian relations all the harder.' The Pakistanis keep talking about Kashmir as something that was 'stolen or lost,' when in fact it was neither, he said.