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Indo-Pak peace top priority: US

New Delhi, Jan. 6: The US today declared as one of its biggest foreign policy challenges this century the need to resolve the hostility and normalise relations between the South Asia nuclear powers, India and Pakistan.

Richard Haass, director of the US state department’s policy planning, emphasised the point and reiterated that an essential first step to cool temperatures was to respect the Line of Control and ensure zero infiltration into India from Pakistan.

Haass’ visit and discussions with the country’s leadership occur in the wake of Delhi’s public articulation of its nuclear policy, which stresses a “no-first-strike posture” and a retaliatory capability that is “massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage”.

India’s nuclear doctrine has been seen in many quarters as a fresh warning to Pakistan to stop infiltration and exporting violence across the border. “It is important that there be no infiltration of any sort across the LoC,” Haass said.

Describing infiltration as a “regular topic” the US has been raising with Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf regime, Haass said: “It is essential. It is important. We are working to bring it about.” He was speaking at an interactive session on “Current Challenges of America’s Foreign Policy”, organised by Ficci.

A detailed discussion on infiltration and cross-border terrorism will take place again between the US and India next month when foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal goes to Washington for foreign-office talks.

The decision of Haass, a key member among US President George W. Bush’s advisors and policy-makers, to club India-Pakistan hostilities with half a dozen other challenges facing US foreign policy — including global terrorism, North Korea, Iraq and the West Asia crisis — indicates that a nuclear South Asia is very much on Washington’s radar.

Haass said the US would not impose a final solution on Kashmir — one of which is to convert the LoC into the international border. Washington, he said, was keen to help evolve a “more normal” relation between Delhi and Islamabad.

Later in the day, Haass separately met foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and Sibal for nearly two hours. South Block made it clear it saw “no change either on the ground or in rhetoric from Pakistan” to spark any hope of normalising relations with Islamabad.

The Indian leadership, though satisfied with the progress in its ties with the US, is not happy with Washington’s inability to press Pakistan to stop infiltration and dismantle its terror apparatus.

Haass said the US was doing what it could to make Pakistan honour its international commitments.

He disagreed with suggestions that the US was no longer pushing Pakistan for a return to democracy. “Though the October election in Pakistan was not the (most) perfect in the world, it is the first step in the right direction.”

It was now the job of the Pakistani leadership, Haass said, to ensure that democracy found its roots in the country. “But we know that we cannot snap our fingers and make it come about overnight.”

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