The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New Delhi, March 28: A joint “please all” statement on Kashmir from the US and the UK appears to have succeeded in warding off fresh tension in South Asia between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama killings.

Hunting for an excuse to stall any tough stand against Pakistan, Delhi tried to look for new virtues in the oft-repeated position of the two Western nations on Kashmir.

“Violence will not solve Kashmir’s problems. Pending the resolution of these problems, the LoC should be strictly respected and Pakistan should fulfil its commitments to stop infiltration across it. Pakistan should also do its utmost to discourage any acts of violence by militants in Kashmir,” said the joint statement read out by US and British foreign secretaries Colin Powell and Jack Straw.

Welcoming the statement, foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said: “It repudiates Pakistan’s assertion that it has no responsibility for violence in Jammu and Kashmir. We hope that Pakistan would heed the advice proferred by stopping infiltration and by doing its utmost to cease all aid and abetment to terrorism in J&K and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in Pakistan.”

Sarna pointedly said the statement was issued on the insistence of US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair when they met at Camp David to discuss the Iraq war’s progress and also the situation in South Asia.

Sarna, however, sought to play down the part of the statement that said the US and the UK “stand ready to help both countries to start a process aimed at building confidence, normalising bilateral relations and resolving outstanding differences, including Kashmir”. The All Parties’ Hurriyat Conference, however, highlighted this part of the statement and welcomed it in Srinagar this afternoon.

“It is a very positive step. US mediation in resolving the Kashmir issue will be of great help,” Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said. But he quickly added: “We cannot compare the war on Iraq and the Kashmir dispute, but the US and the UK should put an end to the brutal carnage they have unleashed on (the) innocent people of Iraq.”

Another separatist leader, Shabir Ahmad Shah, also welcomed the statement and said: “The US involvement in Kashmir issue can lead to a long lasting and durable peace in the subcontinent.”

India took exception to US state department spokesman Richard Boucher’s remarks in the wake of the Pulwama killings, when he stressed on the resumption of the stalled dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Delhi, shedding its ambiguous stand on Iraq, then raised questions about the US war in Iraq and said such “double standards” would not be accepted.

The US-UK statement today is aimed at humouring India and ensuring that Delhi does not do anything drastic against Pakistan which could divert world attention from the Iraq war.

But Washington’s failure to say anything new on the Pakistani leadership was an indicator that it was not yet prepared to sacrifice President Pervez Musharraf to satisfy India.

However, by asking Pakistan to fulfil its commitment, Powell and Straw have given India a reason not to take any tough action against Islamabad.

Delhi, which was in two-minds on what its response should be vis-a-vis Pakistan after the latest terrorist attack, thus appears to have got an excuse to opt for diplomatic pressure, rather than military action to stop terrorist activities across the LoC and elsewhere in the country.

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