It’s time Pakistan-India economic engagement moves to discussions on Kashmir dispute: US

 

United Nations' map of Jammu and Kashmir, acce...

United Nations’ map of Jammu and Kashmir, accepted by the Kashmiris and the Pakistani government (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Ali Imran

 
WASHINGTON – In a reminder that progress on Jammu and Kashmir dispute is critical to making PakistanIndia peace process result-oriented, the United States has said the recent economic cooperation progress between the two South Asian countries should be translated into talks on the lingering issue.

Speaking on the heels of a diplomatic clash between the two nuclear neighbors over the Kashmir dispute at the UN General Assembly, the State Department also made it clear that its stance on the issue remains unchanged, meaning it continues to see the heavily militarized Himalayan territory as disputed. The US also prefers that Pakistan and India address the issue bilaterally.

“On the broader issue of Kashmir, as I said, we want to see this economic warming now translate into a better conversation on that issue as well,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

The spokesperson was asked about Washington’s position on the decades-old dispute in the context of President Asif Ali Zardari’s forceful statements on the issue including calling the issue’s non-resolution as symbolizing UN failure and Indian External Affairs Minister’s objection to Islamabad’s raising the issue at the highest diplomatic forum.

Islamabad and New Delhi are pursuing a peace process, with an emphasis on expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation but Pakistan has all along maintained that if the two countries are to embrace enduring peace, Kashmir and several security issues need to be addressed fairly.

At the briefing, the spokesperson said there has been no change in Washington’s policy on the issue, an internationally accepted dispute.

“With regard to our own policy on Kashmir, it hasn’t changed. It’s been the same for a very long time,” Nuland said. “We have said for some time that we applaud the progress that India and Pakistan have made in their dialogue, particularly on the economic side. 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,” the spokesperson said.

Fabled Kashmir Dal Lake- Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The spokesperson was responding to a series of questions by an Indian journalist who tried to confuse the UN-recognized dispute with terrorism and human rights situation in Pakistan.

In response, Nuland remarked the United States gives importance to human rights issues in Pakistan but turning to the broader perspective immediately noted its time that Pakistan and India started conversation on Kashmir as well.

Post-9/11, India tried to equate Kashmiris’ struggle with terrorism but both the Bush and Obama administrations avoided adopting New Delhi’s narrative, although the issue has gone on the backburner due to Afghan conflict at Pakistan’s western border and Washington’s overriding focus on counterterrorism goals in the region.

But the 2008 Mumbai attacks, blamed on Pakistan-based militants, also hurt prospects of serious discussions on Jammu and Kashmir and some other vital issues like Siachen and water issues.

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