US may play visible role in Kashmir
29 November 2005
New Delhi: The United States may play a more visible role in bringing India and Pakistan towards a settlement on Kashmir issue, sources close to the visit of a high-level delegation of US Congressmen said on Tuesday. Republican Congressman Dan Burton, who is leading a 12-member team on a fact-finding visit to India and Pakistan, has held talks with Kashmiri representatives and Indian officials. His talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday were kept safely hidden from public gaze. Kashmiri media have reported a strong support of the visiting team for recently floated ideas of self-governance and demilitarisation in the disputed region. They have quoted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who met the delegation on Monday as urging a direct American role in the issue. A clearer picture of the achievements of the visit is likely to emerge after the Congressmen meet President Gen Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad. They are believed to be planning to arrive in Pakistan on Wednesday, but for security reasons their itinerary is not being discussed publicly. Mr Burton, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and front-runner to take over the Committee when its current chair, 81-year-old Henry Hyde, Illinois Republican, retires next November, has praised Dr Singh and Gen Musharraf for their initiatives in the peace process. “I was very happy when both Prime Minister Singh and President Musharraf started talking about solving some of their cross- border problems and discussing the problems up in the Kashmir area,” Mr Burton told US-based India Abroad newspaper shortly before starting his visit to South Asia on Monday. “We have been very concerned about the possibility of war breaking out from time to time, and I thought because these two great leaders are now talking and trying to work things out, they ought to see from all sides of the Congress of the US that we are supportive of their effort to make sure that peace prevails over there. The delegation includes Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas Democrat), Barbara Crubin (Wyoming Republican), Joe Wilson (South Carolina Republican and immediate past GOP co-chair of India Caucus), Steve Pearce (New Mexico Republican), Al Green (Texas Democrat), Carolyn McCarthy (New York Democrat), Loretta Sanchez (California Democrat) and a few others. Mr Burton said the main purpose of the visit was to show support from the government of the United States and the Congress of the United States, “that we really appreciate the working relationship between India and Pakistan. It’s been some time coming, and we really think the two leaders there are on the right track.” Asked if he changed his views on human rights abuses by India, which he used to criticise, Mr Burton said he was still concerned by the problem “not only in India and Kashmir but elsewhere in the world.” He was anxious to talk to Dr Singh and other leaders “about some kind of a solution to the Kashmir problem. I am optimistic that things are going to be a lot better now and in the future.” SELF-GOVERNANCE Meanwhile, talking to BBC, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Mir Waiz Omer Farooq has said that Kashmiris will never support the steps that could lead to establishing the Line of Control as permanent border, adds APP. In an interview to BBC Radio, he said, if the idea means that there would be self-governance both in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and also in the Indian Held Kashmir — it will be tantamount to accepting it as LoC. At the moment, the APHC is calling for a solution which will mention a given timeframe. Such arrangement would be for a period of ten years and after that a headway will be made towards the final solution of the Kashmir issue, he said. Responding to a question Farooq said that APHC will never participate in the elections which are held under the Indian supervision. “We see all over the world that there are observers, neutral bodies, which can do it. The UN can do it, OIC can do it, or India and Pakistan can do it jointly”, he added. But if it is done totally by the Indian Election Commission, the stand of APHC is quite clear, he said, adding how can the Kashmiris accept such an arrangement against which they have been waging struggle for times. Responding to another question regarding the idea of a united state of Kashmir, he said, the APHC has put forward a proposal that there should be a federal structure of governance in the five regions of Kashmir. Then there should be a united assembly or parliament in these five areas and both India and Pakistan should have joint control over it.