April 2006 News

US Interested In Final Settlement To Kashmir

28 April 2006
The Times of India

Washington DC: The US has an 'interest' in seeing if a 'final settlement' of the Kashmir issue can be reached and was trying to help build on the progress made by India and Pakistan on the Composite Dialogue. 'The US is not a mediator. The US, obviously, respects the considerable progress that's been made by Pakistan and India in the composite dialogue and we're just trying to help build whatever we can on that progress,' Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said after a round of talks with visiting Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan on Thursday. Burns said the US 'obviously has an interest as do the people of the region and the two governments in seeing if a final settlement can be reached.' Washington has also conveyed to Islamabad that the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement was good for 'all of South Asia' and would not tip the balance of nuclear power in the sub-continent. 'It's going to be positive for the Indians, and I think our overall relationship with both Pakistan and India is going to be a force for stability in the region, quite frankly,' Burns said. Khan briefed his American interlocutors on the progress of the composite dialogue. The US 'hopes for progress in these talks, especially regarding their discussions of Kashmir and about the importance of continued strategic stability between Pakistan and India,' Burns said. He noted that for its part Washington will do what we can to encourage India and Pakistan to make progress on these issues. 'And we continue to be hopeful that Pakistan and India can reach a mutually acceptable settlement of the issues that - of the issue of Kashmir that would take account of the wishes of the people of Kashmir. And we continue to be hopeful that there can be progress, continued progress in the very good dialogue underway between the Governments of Pakistan and India,' Burns said. 'It's not for the United States to dictate to the people of the region what that settlement should look like. This is up to the people of the region as well as to the two governments and we respect that process, but it's an important one,' he said in response to a question. The US has an increasingly strong partnership with Pakistan and a very important partnership with India, 'it makes sense that the United States would be interested in seeing some of the remaining problems left over from another period in history - to see those problems resolved,' the senior American official said. On the issue of the civil nuclear agreement with India, Burns argued that the deal was good for 'all of South Asia' and in the process brushed aside the contention that it was going to have negative implications for Pakistan. 'The civil nuclear agreement with India is in the best interests of the United States and of India, and we think it's going to help normalize the relationship between our two countries, help relieve the energy deficit that the Indian Government is facing. It's going to help the strategic partnership that we've formed with the Indian Government.' Referring to what US President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said, Burns said the US believes that 'this relationship is going to be good for all of South Asia.' 'We don't compare the relationships between the United States and Pakistan, the United States and India. Secretary Rice said on her first trip to the region in March of 2005 we ought to de-hyphenate American relations with the two great countries of South Asia. We are a friend to Pakistan, we are a friend to India, and both are important to the United States,' Burns said. He also emphasized the civilian nature of the civil nuclear arrangement with India. 'Our relationship with India is to build a civil nuclear power and it's to try to give the Indian people a chance to have energy, electricity production to fuel the very rapid economic growth in that country and to accommodate the expansion of the economy that has to take place, particularly in rural areas,' he said. 'So I think the people of Pakistan should be reassured that this program does not speak at all of support for the nuclear weapons sector of the Indian nuclear industry, but to the civil power sector. And that is going to be positive. It's going to be positive for the Indians. And I think our overall relationship with both Pakistan and India is going to be a force for stability in the region, quite frankly.' On his part, Khan said that a solution to the Kashmir issue must be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. 'And in this regard, we have been also saying that the Kashmiri parties have to be involved with the process, the peace process. There is already some movement. And you must have already seen that there are Kashmiri leaders who have been traveling to Pakistan as well from across . 'and we hope that this process will be encouraged and that it will supplement the negotiations which are going on between the two countries with in the context of the composite dialogue, as well as through other modalities and at the highest level; that is the summit level,' The Pakistani official maintained that his country's position on the civilian nuclear deal is well known. 'Regardless of this agreement, whether it is there or it is not there, I would just like to mention two points, and that is that we want, of course, strategic stability in our region in South Asia and we are not interested in any arms race, but certainly we can not be oblivious of our security requirements,' Khan said in response to a question. He said the second point is that Pakistan also has a growing economy, expanding economy, and 'we have growing energy needs, and in that certainly for us the nuclear power generation is a very important option that we want to develop and we will also not be oblivious to our energy needs.'


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