Saturday, July 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

USA rejects Pak plebiscite demand
A. Balu and Agencies

Fact file

Expresses faith in Shimla Agreement
Sees hope in J&K poll
Says war can’t be an option
Asks Pak to stop infiltration, India to look into Kashmiri woes

Washington, July 19
Rejecting Islamabad’s persistent demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir in accordance to the UN resolution, the USA today said it favoured the settlement of the problem bilaterally between India and Pakistan in accordance with the Simla Accord and hoped the coming Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir would lead to the resolution of the issue.

The USA earlier did support the UN Resolution calling for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. “But in 1972, India and Pakistan reached an agreement that it would be a bilateral issue. We support India and Pakistan (for settling the issue bilaterally). We are working towards getting the two countries to the table,” US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca said.

At a hearing to the House International Relations Subcommittee, she expressed for the first time the US belief that the forthcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir could serve as a first step towards resolution of the issue.

Ms Rocca also stressed on the importance of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf ending crossborder infiltration permanently.

She said in a prepared statement that the encouraging progress in South Asia towards prosperity and democracy was too often overshadowed by the spectre of war between India and Pakistan.

“We remain deeply concerned over the high levels of tension between India and Pakistan, in particular about the continued deployment of forces along their shared border and within Kashmir,” she said.

A surge in violence could spark a military confrontation, with long-lasting and devastating consequences for the entire region, Ms Rocca said.

“The enemies of moderation in the region are aware of this fact and are trying to exploit it through high-profile terrorist attacks, such as that outside Jammu this past Saturday killing 28 persons”, she said.

Ms Rocca said as Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is slated to visit India and Pakistan later this month, had put it, war was just not an option for India and Pakistan.

The USA, she said, was working to help the two sides find mutually acceptable ways to begin the de-escalation process.

“President Musharraf,” she pointed out, “has pledged that infiltration into Kashmir from his country will end permanently. Pakistan needs to keep that pledge in order to begin a process of resolution of the immediate crisis and of its more fundamental differences with India.”

Once tensions begin to subside, said Ms Rocca, the process should be continued by New Delhi agreeing to resume talks with Islamabad on all issues, including Kashmir.

“We are also supportive,” said Ms Rocca, “of Indian efforts to conduct free and fair elections in the State of Kashmir scheduled for later this year and to begin to address grievances of Kashmiri people.”

“Such elections could proceed with much greater chance of success in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation and serve as a first step towards resolution of the issue. Finally, we will continue to offer our good offices in helping the two sides resume dialogue to resolve their differences,” she said.

Ms Rocca said with the armies of the two neighbouring countries still facing each other, the crisis in the sub-continent would be the focus of the forthcoming journey of Secretary of State Colin Powell to India and Pakistan. She recalled his statement that USA “wants to make sure that both Indians and the Pakistanis understand that the USA is interested in them beyond this crisis.”

Ms Rocca stressed that South Asia had become the focal point of American foreign policy. US relations with South Asian states had been central to the successful prosecution of the war on terrorism.

During the hearing, Congressman Gary Ackerman urged the Bush Administration to continue to insist that President Musharraf keep his commitment to stop cross-border infiltration and to close the terrorist camps in Pakistan. He hoped that Secretary of State Powell, while in Islamabad next week, would tell General Musharraf that the USA expected him to keep his word both on abandoning terrorism and returning to democracy.

At the State Department briefing, spokesman Richard Boucher parried reporters’ questions about the Indian Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani’s call to the international community to declare Pakistan a terrorist state if it failed to close training camps of militants in Kashmir.

He praised Pakistan’s role since the September 11 terrorist attacks, saying Pakistan had been “a very stalwart ally in the fight against terrorism.”


India’s stand vindicated
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
While welcoming Washington’s latest statement that India and Pakistan should resolve their bilateral differences under the Shimla Agreement, India today said it completely vindicated its stand as New Delhi had all along been stressing the need for adopting the bilateral course to resolve their problems.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs made this reaction in response to a question on U S Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca’s testimony before the U S House International Relations Sub-committee on West Asia and South Asia.

On Ms Rocca’s comment on the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesperson said, “we have always sought to further the process of peace and stability in the state...the government is committed to holding a free and fair poll in the state very shortly”.

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