Remarkable voter turnout, says Blackwill
19 September 2002
NEW DELHI: The United States Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, said today that the first phase of elections in Jammu and Kashmir had been ''very positive'' and the 48 per cent turnout was ''remarkable''. He was quoted as telling television channels that infiltration across the Line of Control had ''gone up'' since the end of July and that he condemned the acts of violence, which impacted the results of the Assembly elections. ''Infiltration across the LoC was down in June and July but since the end of July it has gone up and has been up in August and in September,'' Mr. Blackwill said. ''This (the voter turnout in Kashmir) is remarkable. We hope it (the trend) continues. If there is less violence, there will be more turnout,'' he said describing press reports about rigging as ''exaggerated''. ''It will be an exaggeration to say there was a lot of hue and cry (about rigging). There may have been isolated incidents,'' he said. ''I would like to salute the individual voters in J&K who came out to exercise their democratic rights despite threat from terrorists,'' he was quoted as saying. Asked about Pakistan''s claims that the elections were a ''sham'', Mr. Blackwill took the view that the polls were not a sham. ''We think India is committed to holding free, fair and inclusive elections in J&K without violence. This is exactly right.'' He was hopeful that the elections would lead to the resumption of a dialogue between India and Pakistan. Asked whether the U.S. had given any deadline to put an end to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, Mr. Blackwill said diplomacy was a matter of urging, persuading, enticing and giving incentives. ''It is outrageous that India has to suffer from terrorism from outside,'' he said, adding that infiltration should end.