Zardari Seeks US Mediation On Kashmir Issue

10 December 2009
The Dawn
Masood Haider

New York: President Asif Ali Zardari called upon US President Barack Obama on Thursday to demonstrate American neutrality and willingness to help India and Pakistan overcome their mutual distrust by stepping up its efforts ‘to mediate the Kashmir dispute’. Referring to concerns in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which President Obama signed into law and requires the secretary of state to report to Congress on military and civil progress in Pakistan, Mr Zardari observed: ‘It shows how sensitive many here are to what they see as unfair treatment by the United States.’ ‘It would be helpful if the United States, at some point, would scrutinise India in a similar fashion and acknowledge that it has from time to time played a destabilising role in the region,’ Mr Zardari said in an article in The New York Times published on Thursday. ‘Although we certainly appreciate America’s $7.5 billion pledge over the next five years for non-military projects in Pakistan, this long-term commitment must be complemented by short-term policies,’ Mr Zardari said. ‘Public mistrust of the United States also stems from regional issues, specifically policies concerning India’. He said: ‘I know it is the conventional wisdom in Washington that my nation is obsessed with India.’ ‘But’, he added, ‘even to those of us who are striving towards accommodation and peace, the long history and the unresolved situation in Kashmir give Pakistanis reason to be concerned about our neighbour to the east. Just as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute cannot be resolved without accommodating the Palestinian people, there cannot be permanent regional peace in South Asia without addressing Kashmir.’ Mr Zardari said: ‘We need the support of our allies in war (against terrorism and extremists) but also to help build a new Pakistan that promises a meaningful future to our children.’ However, he said: ‘We are not looking for - and indeed reject - dependency. We don’t need or want (nor would we accept) foreign troops to defeat the insurgency, and we seek trade more than aid from you in the future.’ He said that the free world stood with President Obama in the effort to defeat the extremism and Pakistanis were on the frontlines in this battle. ‘It is an economically viable and socially robust democratic Pakistan that will be the most effective long-term weapon against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism.’ ‘This is the necessary endgame. And this is how history will judge victory’, he said. Mr Zardari said: ‘Despite the noise created by an often hyperactive press in Pakistan (an essential and preferable alternative to the censorship that prevailed during my country’s military dictatorships), and the doubts expressed in America, Pakistan’s democratically elected government is unambiguously on the right path toward establishing a moderate and modern nation.’ ‘Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and I are working closely with our National Assembly and our military and intelligence agencies to defeat the Taliban insurgency and the Qaeda-backed campaign of terrorism. Simultaneously, we are pursuing policies that will re-establish Pakistan as a vibrant economic market and finally address the long-neglected weaknesses in our education, health, agriculture and energy sectors. This isn’t just rhetoric - it is an active policy with new budget priorities and a reoriented national mindset.’