Washington: The US does not think Kashmir
issue is on the table for resumption of a composite Indo-Pak
dialogue saying the `real question` right now is how Pakistan
progressed in ending cross-border terrorism and trial of
Mumbai attack suspects.
The Obama Administration however acknowledged that
Kashmir is a "very important issue" between India and Pakistan
and hoped the two neighbouring countries would make progress
on resolving this issue. It also said there is "no change" in
its Kashmir policy.
"I don`t think Kashmir is really the question that`s
on the table now," said the Assistant Secretary of State for
South and Central Asia Robert Blake in an interview to BBC.
"The real question right now is to first, I think, get
some progress on the trial of the Mumbai suspects, those who
are already in custody in Pakistan and also from the Indian
perspective to see progress by Pakistan on stopping actions by
Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Punjab-based terrorist groups
against India," Blake said.
Giving the American perspective on Indo-US talks,
Blake said that the above mentioned issues are the real
"redlines" for re-establishing the composite dialogue between
India and Pakistan.
State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters at
his daily news briefing that "We recognise that this(Kashmir)
is a very, very important issue between India and Pakistan."
He was responding to a question on the visit of the
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Jammu and Kashmir and his
offer of talks with the separatist if they abandon violence
and abide by the Indian constitution.
"As the dialogue between India and Pakistan, continues
to expand, including at the leader level, that we would hope
that India and Pakistan can make progress in understanding
this issue and moving forward, just as they did a few years
ago," Crowley said.
Appearing at a State Department Blog Forum, Blake said
there is no change in America`s policy on Kashmir.
"No, there`s no change right now," Blake said in
response to a question. I think at this point the top priority
for India and Pakistan is, first, to kind of get their own
bilateral dialogue going in a more systematic way," he said.
As I said, there is very important meetings that
will be taking place in Islamabad over the next two months
and the Indians have in Prime Minister Singh somebody who I
think is personally and deeply committed to achieving peace
with Pakistan, Blake said.
"But he (Prime Minister) needs to see progress on
these two important issues that I spoke of; that is, progress
to stop some of the cross-border infiltration that`s taking
place into India, but also progress on the trial of the Mumbai
suspects," said the State Department official.
If we can see that, I think that there will be a
flourishing of the dialogue that could take place but those
are very important things that need to take place, he said.
Blake noted that from 2004 to 2007, the two countries did
make quite a lot of progress on Kashmir, where they had this
bilateral back channel that took place in which they had a
chance for the first time to sit down very quietly and explore
the outlines of an agreement.
"They didn`t quite reach the end of it, but I think
they made a great deal of progress.
And that, again, could be picked up, I think, relatively
quickly if they can sort out some of these other issues that I
talked about," he said.