Real question for Indo-Pak dialogue cross-border terrorism: US



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.

PTI