March 2006 News

Pak,India Making Kashmir Progress

21 March 2006
The Nation

Washington DC: The US has said that India and Pakistan have been making good progress on the Kashmir issue. In an exclusive interview to ANI, Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia said that New Delhi and Islamabad had made some visible progress on the contentious issue and were taking forward the Composite Dialogue process in a very careful manner. 'You've seen some really good progress between India and Pakistan in the composite dialogue including on the aspect of Kashmir,' said Boucher. 'They've had now confidence building measures started bus lines, railroads, people back and forth in a way that they never had before, and each of them has stepped forward with I think some new ideas, some new thoughts, some new contacts in terms of political parties and the interest of different groups in Kashmir. So there's a fair amount of thinking going on new ideas coming forth and new steps being taken and that's good,' he said. 'They've got a flow of people and goods back and forth; that can always be expanded and confidence building measures can be expanded. But they're also setting up now a new set of discussions and the whole composite dialogue including Kashmir and that's important that they just keep at it because they've been doing the right thing and we want to see them keep at it,' he added. On being asked about the option of self-governance that has been touted as a probable solution to the issue Boucher said he did not want to focus on individual ideas. He said that the US viewed its role in the Kashmir dispute as that of a friend for both countries. The issue was bilateral and had to be solved by India and Pakistan only. 'Well I think our role is kind of a friend to both sides. We're friends of the Indians, friends with the Pakistanis welcoming the steps they've taken, encouraging the progress they're trying to make, and I think in terms of specific steps that they're doing the right thing. Both sides see the US as a friend; there are different views about what whether we should be involved or not. I think to the extent we define our involvement with both sides as friends, as encouragement, as interested outsiders but leave the work to them I think that's the right way to go,' he said. He said the US was monitoring the 'war of words' between Kabul and Islamabad adding that though there might be some differences over the two, fundamentally there was co-operation between them. 'We have been in touch with both the Pakistani government and the Afghan government at various levels about the sort of war of words that's going on. This flares up from time to time; they're obviously both in a delicate situation and face the same kind of threats on their borders and so there are statements made from time to time but fundamentally there's a basis for cooperation. I think there is cooperation there,' he said. 'There's cooperation on the-the anti- terrorist problem that they both face in that area; there's cooperation on the economic development of that area and we've announced some new steps to get them together to work on opportunity zones there and there's cooperation really on the border management side of things,' he added. 'So we-we think there's plenty of ground for cooperation. We'll try to work with them in the very practical ways kind of tone down the rhetoric and get to work on the problems we all face there,' he said.

 

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