May 2003 News

Kashmir infiltration down: Armitage

8 May 2003
The News International

ISLAMABAD: The US would not put any pressure on India and Pakistan to hold a dialogue rather its role was limited only to that of facilitation, said US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at a press conference he addressed jointly with Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri here on Thursday.Armitage pointed out that Kashmir was not the main focus of his discussions in Islamabad as on top of the agenda were Pak-US relations. He, however, said that through cautious optimism he had certain confidence that there is good basis for India and Pakistan to move on.'It is not for the government of the United States to press India and Pakistan to initiate a dialogue. We will do anything which could be helpful for a dialogue. This is a good process and there is cautious optimism that this might be a very good process. In fact it is a very good basis to move forward,' Armitage said.Kasuri said: 'We want to initiate a process but any solution that does not take the Kashmir issue into consideration cannot last long. The government of Pakistan would like to go into a tiered dialogue which is meaningful and addresses all issues.'About alleged cross border infiltration, and dismantling of training camps in Azad Kashmir, Armitage said that these two issues had been raised in his meeting with Musharraf. When asked if Pakistan had done enough to address the alleged infiltration problem, Armitage replied, 'We are not keeping score. Any violence is bad. But it is down from the same time last year. Anyone suffering (because of violence) is a cause of concern. President Musharraf has told me nothing is happening at the Line of Control. He said that there are no camps in Azad Kashmir and if there are, they will be gone by tomorrow.'Armitage admitted that a lot of discussions revolved around the recent India-Pakistan initiation of the peace process, but the US was not in a position to put any pressure on either country. 'If we can we will be helpful in persuading a dialogue and I will carry my discussions to India. These discussions will be faithfully conveyed to India', said Armitage.He was asked about his views on what Pakistan called the 'core' issue of Kashmir. 'One side (Pakistan) will say that it is a core issue. From India they will say the core issue is one of hostility. The US is not making any proposals', he explained.To another question whether it was not mandatory on India to stop cross border infiltration since it had more troops, Armitage replied, 'I don't think I should point fingers at Pakistan and India. Theirs is fifty years of history. The US will faithfully discuss all issues. The interlocutors cannot describe if any side has done enough'.When asked how he would describe 'facilitation', a frequent word that the US uses, Armitage avoided to explain in detail. 'I cannot describe it. (The meaning) is in the eye of the beholder. Kashmir is not the only issue during my discussions. Pak-US relations were on top of my agenda', he said.To a query about Pakistan's initiative for de- nuclearization of the region, Armitage said that a beginning had been made between India and Pakistan and sustained dialogue over a period of time can handle all aspects of issues between the two countries.'A series of political and economic confidence building measures have to take place between the two states. The arms race is down the path of discussions', he explained. Armitage said he was not in a position to explain why India had changed its stance in recent times but he added the Indian prime minister had made a far reaching statement.'He is a man of peace and wants peace for India and Pakistan. But I cannot speculate on his motives', he added. In his opening statement, Armitage said that in his meetings with the president, the prime minister and the foreign minister focus was on the long term relationship between the two countries.'We also expressed our readiness to continue to help India and Pakistan to address all issues of concern in a meaningful way. We have had a full series of discussions. We discussed Afghanistan, Iraq, UN security council resolutions which would cover the post-Saddam era. Of importance was discussion related to President Musharraf's visit to Washington and the ongoing US-Pakistan bilateral relations which are going on extremely well', he said.Earlier Pakistan and the US officials held wide ranging talks in Islamabad, expressing hope that the recent resumption of talks between Pakistan and India would move forward towards a meaningful dialogue. The US expressed 'cautious optimism' on the recent initiation of the peace process between Islamabad and New Delhi.US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Assistant Secretary of State for Asia Christina Rocca held several rounds of talks with Pakistan officials. They met President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri and Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokar.Agencies add: About Pak-India peace initiatives Richard Armitage said, 'There is a nascent beginning of a dialogue.' 'When Prime Minister Jamali made his telephone call to the Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of India made his very far-reaching statement in Srinagar, something had begun,' he declared.Pakistan 'appreciated the US efforts for the resumption of a bilateral dialogue,' it said in a formal statement issued after the talks.Armitage said Thursday he was 'absolutely confident' that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, citing last month's discovery of a suspected mobile biological weapons laboratory.'We're absolutely confident of our information,' Armitage said .'Never have I seen intelligence agencies in my government, and by the way allied governments, so united on any one issue as ... the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.'Armitage said the discovery in April of a suspected mobile biological weapons lab vindicated US Secretary of State Colin Powell's intelligence briefing to the UN Security Council in February on Iraq's alleged possession of WMDs.A US defence official said in Washington Tuesday that a tractor trailer seized by US forces on April 19 in northern Iraq appears to be part of a mobile lab for making chemical and biological weapons.The van was 'one of the things Secretary Powell spoke about in his 5 February reception at the UN Security Council,' Armitage said. 'This has turned out to be true, a mobile biological van has been found. 'I have absolutely no doubt we'll get to the bottom of all this.'Armitage said Washington was prepared for a long- term engagement in Afghanistan to ensure a bright future for the country. 'That is what I am going to try and impress upon (Afghan) President Hamid Karzai,' he said.In interviews with Pakistan television channels, Armitage said he would reassure the Karzai government that the United States could be 'very heavily involved in Afghanistan and for the long term' even while it was engaged in Iraq. 'One of the reasons President (George W) Bush asked me to go to Kabul... is to make dramatic display that United States has not lost interest (in Afghanistan),' he said.'We want to show politically that we have not given up our vision for an Afghanistan which has a very bright future.' Armitage admitted that the situation in Afghanistan was 'difficult and complex.'It is a complex and difficult problem and I think that there is degree of truth in the questions critics raise about how far and wide (the) central government realm extends,' Armitage said. However, he believed Karzai represented most people and 'that is a good base on which to move forward and I think he is intent on moving forward.'Armitage was due to fly to Kabul early Friday before travelling to India for talks with Indian leaders as part of his mission to spur along a peace process between Islamabad and New Delhi amid what the United States sees as a 'moment of opportunity' after reciprocal peace overtures by the two nuclear capable sides.Armitage said Pakistan and United States enjoy a deep, enduring and long lasting relationship. In an interview with the Pakistan Television, Armitage said, 'We are very very intent on not going through another separation with Pakistan as we had for ten years. We want our relationship as deep, enduring and long-lasting.'

 

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