Kashmir an `impediment` in Indo-Pak ties: Hillary

Kashmir issue is an impediment in improving Indo-Pak relationship Clinton said .

Updated: Jul 19, 2010, 23:25 PM IST

Islamabad: In remarks that may ruffle
feathers in New Delhi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
said the Kashmir issue is an "impediment" in developing
a relationship that will be beneficial to both India and
Pakistan.

"Kashmir (issue) that have divided India and Pakistan
and in my view are impediments to developing a relationship
that would be beneficial to both countries," she told a joint
press conference with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood
Qureshi.

She also made it clear that the US has no desire to
mediate between India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir
issue which will have to be resolved by the two countries
through negotiations.

With Clinton by his side, Qureshi raked up the Kashmir
issue and said his country wants a sustained dialogue with
India.

Qureshi, who has been blowing hot and cold against
India in the last few days after a deadlock in the Indo-Pak
talks, said, "sustaining dialogue with India and finding a
just solution of the Kashmir dispute" was part of the
"convergent interest" of US and Pakistan.

While Pakistan has been insisting on discussing the
Kashmir issue at all bilateral meetings with India, New Delhi
has been maintaining that all issues can be taken up, but
Islamabad should first address its core concern of terrorism
emanating from the Pakistani soil against it.

New Delhi and Islamabad have held several rounds of
discussions at high-levels on Kashmir under the Composite
Dialogue which was suspended following the Mumbai attacks.

During a town hall meeting with members of civil
society later in the day, Clinton said: "We can only
encourage, we can`t solve (the Kashmir issue) because at the
end of the day, this is an issue (to which) there is no
dictated response."

The US cannot impose its decision on India and
Pakistan or tell them what they must do to settle the Kashmir
issue, she said.

"We continue to encourage, we try to arrange and
facilitate but this is going to take a tremendous act of
courage by the political leadership in both countries. There
is no short-cut around it," she said.

Clinton aired similar views during an interaction with
a panel of Pakistani television anchors, saying the US would
encourage the dialogue between India and Pakistan as it is in
the interest of both countries.

"I happen to think, on balance, it`s even more in
Pakistan`s interests because (it will open markets in India),"
she said.

Though officials of both countries have been meeting,
the US wants to "encourage much more dialogue", Clinton said.

Clinton also told the TV anchors that there is a need
to build more trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan while
trying to work on long-standing issues between India and
Pakistan.

The US will encourage the leadership of Pakistan and
India to "persevere despite the (terrorist) attacks in both
countries", she said.

Asked if the proposal to name former President Bill
Clinton as a special envoy on the Kashmir issue was still on
the table, Clinton said: "In order to have anyone play that
role, both sides have to agree and that has not been the case
as of now."

Responding to a question about the US condemning
crackdowns on protesters in Iran and describing the
demonstrations in Jammu and Kashmir as an internal matter of
India, Clinton said there was a "big difference" between the
situation in Pakistan and India and that in Iran.

"India and Pakistan have vibrant democratic
institutions, a free press and independent judiciaries. We do
not find any of them in Iran," she said.

While the Kashmir dispute is a "very important and
difficult issue", India and Pakistan were not making threats
against the rest of the world, she said.

"But in contrast, Iran is threatening all of its
neighbours, is threatening to wipe countries off the map and
is funding terrorism all over the world," she said.

PTI