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August 21, 2019

It’s India’s internal matter but...: IHK situation has implications outside India’s border, says US

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August 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: The US has declared that the situation in Kashmir has its implications outside of the Indian border, while urging Islamabad and Delhi to exercise restraint and initiate dialogue to defuse the escalating tensions.

"We recognise that it’s an internal matter but it obviously has implications outside of India’s borders, so we have long called for direct conversations between Pakistan and India to resolve what have been the decades of tensions generated by that issue," a senior State Department official said here on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, the official maintained that the US was encouraging both countries to find a way to constructive engagement and the (US) president’s direct involvement underscores the level of interest — not in mediating per se — but in being the kind of friend that is encouraging its partners in the region to engage constructively.

“The president has offered to mediate if asked by both parties,” the official said, adding, but he has not been asked to mediate. "The president’s interest in helping to encourage stability in South Asia is not new and one of the very first strategies put forward by the administration was a South Asia strategy; and that strategy was called South Asia for a reason — it was very much India’s rolein strategic interest also in the region and being able to work across the region to achieve stability, connectivity and peace," said the official.

Describing the Trump administration’s approach to the issue, the official said that it focuses "in the near term on the human rights situation, in encouraging India to quickly release detainees, to restore basic freedoms and, to implement what the prime minister laid out in his own address of a return to political normalcy for Jammu and Kashmir, whether first as a union territory but then as a state and the restoration of political dialogue."

US President Donald Trump has again offered to media between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue.

Kashmir has always been an emotional issue for Pakistan, the State Department official acknowledged, saying that it was an important time to demonstrate that Pakistan has, in fact, determined for its own reasons and according to its own national action plan - "that there's no benefit in allowing proxy forces to operate from its soil, that to the detriment Pakistan's own reputation, to the detriment Pakistan's ability to attract investment that it needs to grow its economy and it’s never been a successful strategy in achieving what Pakistan's goals are for regional stability and peace and welfare of the Kashmir people."

The official repeatedly encouraged India to ease the situation in the territory of IHK itself, and so the restrictions, the detentions and the restricted internet - all of these measures still need to be resolved so that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have a sense of normalcy, return to their lives.

The State Department official also warned that "the inflamed rhetoric" from both sides about Kashmir was not conducive to constructive dialogue. "This is a long standing US policy to call for direct dialogue between Pakistan and India," the official further said, adding that the US was aware of India's concern about cross border infiltration or exploitation of the situation, but yet continues to urge it should work as quickly as possible to restore normalcy in the region.

Regarding increasing tension between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue, the official said that the US never takes for granted the security between two nuclear powers when there's a conflict, that is dividing them and has divided the two countries for decades.

"One of the reasons that we continue to espouse direct contacts and welcome that the DGMO hotline exists - because there needs to be clarity and understanding of the actions and motivations of either side. So, yes, that's something we take seriously," the official, said adding, "The attack in Pulwama demonstrated to the world how quickly terrorist incident can escalate in ways that potentially could be quite unpredictable."

Rejecting Indian official's claim that talks between Pakistan and India would be over Azad Kashmir, the official said that it was a "standard talking point by Indian officials." The official also asked Pakistan to take sustained, irreversible steps to halt support for terrorism. "In that context, obviously, we believe there can be a productive conversation and negotiations between the two countries," said the official.

Commenting on Islamabad's efforts to highlight the issue on international forums, the official said that it was Pakistan's sovereign decision to approach other platforms, but the administration's view was that "resolution in Kashmir was not aided by multilateralising it," and that the answer was direct conversation between Pakistan and India.

To a question, the official further said the US could not recommend changing the status of the Line of Control (LoC) to an international border.

"In the past there have been dialogues between Pakistan and India and we are confident that both countries themselves can navigate their ways towards a resolution of the conflict. It's not going to be done by outsiders," the official said, adding that the US uses nomenclature that each country uses for their geographic areas.

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