January 2004 News

Sinha plays down India's traditional Kashmir stance during US tour

21 January 2004
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha has played down his earlier statement that Kashmir was an integral part of India and would remain so.Mr Sinha was asked by Daily Times here on Tuesday what hope of India and Pakistan reaching an accord on Kashmir could possibly be entertained, when on the eve of the SAARC summit, he had told The Friday Times in an interview that Kashmir was an integral part of India and would remain so. He replied that he had expressed India's stated position on Kashmir, in the same way as Pakistan had expressed its stated position. These declarations should be seen as the 'starting point' of the discussions the two countries had decided to have next month. He added that India did not have to be apologetic about stating the position it held on the Kashmir question.President George Bush on Tuesday marked thawing tensions in South Asia and widening ties between Washington and New Delhi by welcoming Mr Sinha to the White House.Mr Sinha later told Indian correspondents at a briefing held at the Indian Embassy, from which Pakistani correspondents were as usual excluded, that Mr Bush expressed special admiration for PM Vajpayee, as he was making a peace move and taking risks during an election year.Mr Sinha made it clear that the US role in Indo-Pakistan's development was that of a 'good friend', but not of a mediator or an umpire. Neither was the US seeking such a role, nor was India willing to give it that status.He also said he had let US Secretary of State Colin Powell know that 'public diplomacy' was not a good idea, a barbed reference to the large number of interviews the secretary of state had been granting to foreign and American media lately for the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan. Mr Sinha said public statements about the US role could hurt President Pervez Musharraf politically and bolster militants who said he was acting under 'US pressure'. It could also tie up Mr Vajpayee's hands if the American presence becomes too large in a peace process that must survive the challenges of the subcontinent.Mr Powell ruled out speculation in the American media that there could be a coup in Pakistan against President Musharraf.Asked at an appearance he made with visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha about what the questioner called 'speculation' in the US press about a coup in Pakistan, Mr Powell replied, 'Well, speculation in the American press is speculation that can't be made true. We are fully supportive of President Musharraf.'Mr Sinha intervened to say, 'I would just add one sentence to that comment, which is that stability is very important to carry forward the initiative which has been taken. And the Indian prime minister has already wished President Musharraf all the best when he was talking to him on the telephone as he was leaving Islamabad.' The recent thaw in Indo-Pakistan relations figured prominently in talks held between Mr Sinha and Mr Powell.


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