US promised Pak Kashmir talks if infiltration ended
25 June 2002
The Asian Age
New Delhi: The Americans gave an assurance to Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that steps to put a permanent end to cross-border infiltration would be followed by talks on Kashmir, according to Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner, Mr Jalil Abbas Jeelani. ''This is now Gen. Musharraf’s biggest worry,'' he said as apart from ''cosmetic gestures'' there is no firm indication from India of a willingness to enter into a dialogue with Pakistan. Mr Jeelani, who is now the acting head of mission, sought to play down the impact of Gen. Musharraf’s remarks to Newsweek where he had claimed to have given no assurance to the US that he would end cross-border infiltration permanently. The diplomat, in a short interview with The Asian Age on Tuesday, said the general had merely indicated that he could not be held responsible for everything that goes on across the LoC for the next several years. He said US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld had said as much just two days ago. US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who had wrested the assurance from Gen. Musharraf, told Financial Times in an interview published on Monday that the US would continue to work behind the scenes to ''inspire a settlement'' to the dispute. ''The US is going to stay involved and I trust our good friends from Britain are as well,'' he said. He made it clear that Washington wanted ''at the first instance to stop infiltration and in the second instance to follow through and continue to lower the tensions so both sides can have a dialogue.'' Mr Jeelani was happy with the Indian foreign office response as it was restrained. He claimed that New Delhi was of the view that the situation on the ground ''remains quite satisfactory,'' adding that defence minister George Fernandes had also acknowledged this. He said the ''understanding'' was that talks between India and Pakistan would follow these measures but ''there has been no follow-up on that.'' He said Gen. Musharraf had come in for criticism on this account as the lifting of the airspace ban and the recall of naval ships by India were gestures that were at best ''cosmetic.'' The senior envoy said that insofar as elections in Jammu and Kashmir were concerned, there was a commitment that there will be no violence. He said reports to the contrary were far fetched. He said that for peace, however, it was necessary for India to ''properly de-escalate and indicate a willingness to enter into a dialogue with Pakistan.'' He said that this need not be a public commitment but at least some ''indication'' should be there as a follow-up measure. India has repeatedly said that it is not averse to talks once it has sufficient evidence that Pakistan has stopped cross-border infiltration. Mr Armitage, in his interview, asserted that it was ''very important to have a free and fair election in Kashmir that is free of violence, and one that is judged to be free and fair by the international community.'' He said the US would remain focused on this election as well as the Pakistan national elections. He again claimed that there were ''strong signs that infiltration had fallen sharply in the last few weeks.'' Gen. Musharraf’s interview had created a stir not just in India but in international circles with the Americans and the British, in particular, jumping in to ensure that there was no overreaction from New Delhi. US secretary of state Colin Powell got on the phone with Gen. Musharraf while British foreign secretary Jack Straw dialled minister of external affairs Jaswant Singh’s number to ensure that the war of words did not lead to escalation on the LoC. The Financial Times report on the interview quotes unidentified American officials admitting that the US was already a ''de facto mediator'' in Kashmir between India and Pakistan.