July 1999 News

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Stop shelling Cross-Border Jammu and Kashmir attacks, US tells Pakistan

29 July 1999
The Asian Age
Aziz Haniffa

The United States has asked Pakistan to immediately stop its shelling across the Line of Control as across the Line of Control as well as cross-border to the bilateral dispute is to be found under the Lahore process.

It also said that it had developed "new respect" for the political courage and leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the restraint he showed in dealing with the pressures of the Kargil crisis.

Assistant secretary of state for South Asia Karl Inerfurth, asked if Pakistan's shelling and cross-border terrorism violated the spirit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's pledge to US President Bill Clinton as spelt out in their joint statement of July 4, acknowledged, "Clearly, we are concerned about continuing violence across the Line of Control."

In his first meeting with South Asian correspondents following the Kargil crisis, Mr Inderfurth said while Washington believed Mr. Sharif had been true to his promise and had withdrawn all the Pakistan-backed infiltrators from Kargil, it continued to be concerned "about acts of terrorism, about shelling that may be taking place."

"All of those things," he warned, "are actions that will make it more difficult for there to be a resolution of this longstanding dispute."

"Therefore, we hope", Mr Inderfurth said, "with the Kargil crisis ended, that as soon as possible the two sides will be able to resume a dialogue that will allow them to address all of these issues - the immediate ones of shelling, of terrorism, of those actions that are of concern, as well as finding a way to have a longer-term political settlement."

"In the end," Mr Inderfurth said, "it required tough decisions by both India and Pakistan to prevent a dangerous situation from getting worse."

He showered praise on Mr Vajpayee, saying, "In the first instance, we have gained new respect for the political courage and leadership of Prime Minister Vajpayee, whose strict maintenance of discipline and restraint in the face of pressures for escalation enabled the crisis to be resolved." Mr Inderfurth also lauded Mr Sharif, saying he too had "demonstrated courage by making the difficult but necessary decision to take those steps needed to restore the Line of Control. He did so with full knowledge that he would come under some strong criticism at home."

He acknowledged that "one clear casualty of Kargil was the Lahore process and the hope and trust that is generated. We are hopeful it can be restored as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, no firm dates or time-frame for a visit to South Asia by US President Bill Clinton has been fixed as yet, officials said. The White House had in a statement on July 4 quoted Mr Clinton as saying he hopes to make "an early visit" to the region.

"It is our view that the purpose for the President's travel is to set the stage for a stronger relationship in the region and, specifically, with the countries that he visits, to place these relations on a new footing - one that is sustainable over time," he said.

"Therefore, we hope that steps that we can take and that the countries themselves can take in advance will give this trip the most positive environment for it to be the kind of trip that we all hope for," he added.

"That is diplomatese to say that we think that we will be working very hard with the countries to see what steps can be taken before the President's arrival to set a positive tone for the trip and see that we are able to accomplish all that we want at the time of the visit and to lay the foundation for beyond," Mr Inderfurth acknowledged.

Mr Inderfurth reiterated that the United States "has no intention to mediate in South Asia. We have made this clear repeatedly to both Indian and Pakistani officials."

"Yet Kargil also demonstrated the great concern and interest of the international community in a peaceful resolution of this latest Kashmir crisis," he, however, added.

Mr Inderfurth said Mr Clinton believes there should be, as the Lahore declaration itself makes clear, an intensification of efforts to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio.(India Broad News Service)

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