WASHINGTON: The Clinton Administration appears to have dismissed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's linkage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) with the Kashmir issue as mere political posturing meant for domestic consumption back home.
Commenting on Mr Sharif's statement to this effect, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Karl Inderfurth on Friday made it clear that the US would go by Mr Sharif's commitment in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September regarding adherence to the CTBT.
"We have no reason to believe that the prime minister's assurance provided at the time of UNGA is any different today than it was then. We believe that Pakistan is on a path to both sign and ratify the CTBT," he added.
The controversy arose over Mr Sharif's remarks in reply to a question at his press conference on Thursday suggesting that Pakistan would sign the CTBT only after the Kashmir issue had been "meaningfully" addressed and all the embargoes on Pakistan had been lifted. He had never made such a statement before, according to observers.
Mr Inderfurth drew attention to the joint statement issued on Friday at the end of Mr Sharif's US visit which said that Mr Clinton had welcomed the prime minister's statement made at the UNGA, regarding adherence to the CTBT and Pakistan's decision to participate constructively in the upcoming negotiations at Geneva on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, consistent with its legitimate security interests."
"I think he brought that issue in because he feels very strongly that addressing Kashmir is of utmost importance to Pakistan and addressing the question of sanctions relief is also of utmost importance to Pakistan," he added.
Mr Inderfurth said, "Mr Sharif is a leader and a leader had to keep his eyes on things of greatest importance to his country. We were not surprised that he had raised those issues."
The US hoped that India and Pakistan would be able to fully explore their views on the Kashmir issue as their current dialogue progressed. It would lead to some satisfactory solution of the Kashmir issue and "that will over time also take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people," he added.
"We also believe that the international community can at some appropriate time perform a valuable role if there is a movement of the two parties (India and Pakistan) towards resolving the issue," Mr Inderfurth said.
"We can provide some form of support and that is what we are hoping to do." He said Kashmir had acquired greater importance in the wake of the May nuclear tests by India and Pakistan.
Mr Inderfurth said the world and the international community were concerned about the issue. The US believed that India and Pakistan, by willing to keep Kashmir on their bilateral agenda, were "having further talks and are moving in the right direction. We support their efforts," he remarked.
"We are not going to say or do anything at this stage which would deflect attention away from the parties themselves discussing this issue in a serious fashion," he said obviously in justification of the US inability to accept Pakistan's demand for American mediation in the dispute, he added.
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