August 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Lahore, August 27
Sources say the move aims at enabling Washington to concentrate on its war against terrorism that is getting distracted due to the continuing stand-off between India and Pakistan. Diplomatic sources say the US authorities think that any immediate ceasefire in Kashmir will result in easing of tension between New Delhi and Islamabad.
The USA is concerned about the ongoing stand-off between the two countries because it has forced the Pakistani army to concentrate on its eastern borders, allowing the Al-Qaida to regroup in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
There is growing feeling in Washington that the Pakistan army’s distraction poses a threat to future plans of the USA in South Asia. Diplomatic sources in Islamabad say the Pakistan Government had earlier made it clear to visiting US dignitaries that unless a ceasefire was secured in Kashmir and bloodshed stopped, it would be difficult for Islamabad to negotiate the Kashmir issue because of internal pressures.
Sources said as a step in the direction, the Jonah Blank a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Islamabad on August 20, ahead of Mr Richard Armitage’s visit. Mr Blank held meetings with the Foreign Office officials and people having connection with Kashmiri militants in a bid to secure their assurances regarding a ceasefire. Mr Blank’s visit was kept secret to enable the negotiating parties to feel at ease while discussing the matter.
Insiders said Washington was trying hard to secure commitments from the Hizbul Mujahideen and others fighting in Kashmir. The US authorities wanted their supporters in Pakistan to exercise their influence to get the ceasefire agreed upon, thus allowing Pakistan and India to settle their issues.
Sources claimed that the task was assigned to the political section of the US Embassy in Islamabad which invited these personalities to dinner with the arriving US guest. Nearly 16 personalities were invited to dinner on August 21 at US Embassy to discuss with them the Kashmir problem and ceasefire.
Sources said the USA planned to influence Hizbul Mujahideen leader Salahuddin through Hurriyat leader in Pakistan Ghulam Muhammad Safi and was hoping to strike a ceasefire deal.
Diplomatic sources said Mr Jonah had come to Pakistan to clear the obstacles in the way of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who arrived in Islamabad on August 24. Since the top objective was to secure a ceasefire, the first step in that direction was to get a breathing space. Mr Richard arrived from New Delhi with an eight-member delegation.
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