US Calls on India, Pakistan to Enhance Dialogue on Kashmir Issue

Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

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Washington, DC – The United States has expressed optimism that the recent “economic  warming” between India and Pakistan would also lead to a “better conversation” on the decades-old Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Responding to questions during the daily press briefing on Oct 3 at the US State Department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “We want to see this economic warming extend to other areas.”

According to a State Department senior official, Secretary Hillary Clinton, a day earlier during her bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) with Indian Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna, welcomed the steps India and Pakistan recently took “to develop closer trade and commercial ties.”

But at the 67th session of the UNGA in New York, both India and Pakistan exchanged terse words over the Kashmir issue.

Addressing the UNGA, Krishna said, “The people of Jammu and Kashmir have chosen and reaffirmed their destiny repeatedly through India’s well established democratic processes.”

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that J and K is an integral part of India,” Krishna asserted.

Indian Minister Krishna’s comments were a direct answer to an earlier speech by Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who had reiterated Islamabad’s support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, with an accusing finger pointed at the UN, saying, “Kashmir remains a symbol of the failures, rather than strengths of the UN system.”

Clarifying the US position in the light of this war of words between two nuclear armed neighbors, Nuland said, “With regard to our own policy on Kashmir, it hasn’t changed. It’s been the same for a very long time.”

Reiterating Clinton’s remarks, Nuland said, “We are encouraged that they’ve taken some concrete steps to normalize trade relations, including the recently signed agreement on visa liberalization. We want to see this economic warming extend to other areas.”

Nuland confirmed that the issue of Kashmir did not come up during the meeting between Secretary Clinton and President Zardari, which was also held on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York.

Confronted with the lack of US criticism on human rights violations on the Pakistan side of Kashmir while there is an abundance of finger-pointing at such events on the Indian side, Nuland said, “I would say that we do talk about human rights regularly with the Pakistan Government. We report on these things in our annual Human Rights Report. So obviously, human rights in Pakistan is something that we watch carefully and that’s important to us.” (IATNS)

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