USA will not meddle in Kashmir
5 January 2001
Chennai: The USA has decided not to interfere in the Kashmir issue, as it feels the problem should be solved directly by India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, the US Ambassador to India said today. Mr Richard F Celeste called for the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan as envisioned in the Lahore Declaration for a fast solution to the Kashmir issue. He applauded Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee's Ramzan ceasefire offer and its extension. He was delivering the Abraham Lincoln memorial lecture organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce and the United States Consulate. The USA was encouraged by the steps taken by both countries to reduce violence, Mr Celeste said. 'That is why we respect India?s efforts to engage in substantive talks with a wide range of leaders in Kashmir,' he said. 'My country shares the concern of many of India?s friends about tensions between India and Pakistan which have been specially high since the Kargil conflict last year. For many Indians, President Bill Clinton's Indian tour was not over till his televised speech to the people of Pakistan. His message calling for respect for the Line of Control, reduced violence and renewed dialogue was articulated clearly then and continues to guide our policy today,' Mr Celeste said. The USA is firm on its non-interference policy. 'The problem should be dealt with directly between India and the people of Kashmir and between the Indian and Pakistani governments...We are not trying to draw new boundaries for India. That is not our business,' he said. The Ambassador said the June 1999 war against 'Pakistan-supported infiltration into Kargil' provided the context for a dramatic shift in India-USA relations. 'The Pokhran-triggered non-proliferation talks between the US deputy secretary of state, Mr Strobe Talbott, and the Indian foreign minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, were the most senior, serious and sustained conversations in the history of our ties with independent India,' Mr Celeste said. During the Kargil conflict, the telephone conversations between Mr Clinton and Mr Vajpayee set a standard for transparency and confidence unmatched in the Indo-US ties. 'As a result of these efforts, the success of Mr Clinton?s visit and the well-regarded return visit by Mr Vajpayee, the opportunity to build a dynamic relationship for the 21st century is ripe,' he said. India and the USA have agreed to cooperate on several issues like fighting terrorism, addressing global climate change, enhancing military-to-military relations and developing and testing a HIV-AIDS vaccine and opening markets to the US and Indian goods and services. On trade ties, Mr Celeste said: 'The work of commercial advocacy and trade negotiation will benefit from a fresh perspective in the Bush administration; one that I trust will strive to demonstrate to the Indian public that a more open system will generate substantial benefits to Indian economy. One way to frame this agenda would be to probe what India and the USA could do together.' As part of a cooperative programme with India, 10 industries would be identified and working committees set up to tackle the problem of child labour. Both governments would set aside equal and substantive grants for the purpose, he said.