Special envoy has no mandate to deal with Kashmir: US

28 January 2009
The Hindustan Times
Arun Kumar

Washington : The United States has made it clear that its newly appointed special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has no mandate to deal with Kashmir and his sole job is to help bring stability to Afghanistan. 'His mandate is to go out and try to help bring stability to Afghanistan, working closely with Pakistan to try to deal with the situation in the FATA region,' Pakistan tribal belt along their porous border that has become a terrorist safe haven, State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said on Tuesday. 'Well, it's not in his mandate, as you mention, to deal with the subject of Kashmir,' he said when asked why Holbrooke's brief did not include Kashmir when President Barack Obama had during the election campaign suggested a collective approach to solve South Asia's problems. 'With regard to Kashmir, I think our policy is well-known. I think India has some very clear views as to what it wants to do vis- -vis, you know, dealing with the Kashmir issue, as well as the Pakistanis,' he said without elaborating. South Asia experts have welcomed the fact that the new envoy's brief does not extend to India or more specifically to the issue of Kashmir as speculated in the media earlier. As Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia at The Heritage Foundation, noted: 'Fortunately, the Obama team seems to have recognised the key to stabilising Afghanistan does not lie in resolving Kashmir as some have recently tried to assert.' 'But with regard to Ambassador Holbrooke's mission, as I said, it's to deal strictly with the Pakistan-Afghanistan situation,' Wood said. Asked if the envoy would play a role if there are heightened tensions again over the Mumbai terror attacks, blamed on Pakistan based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, he said: 'Well, I don't want to speculate in terms of what he may or may not do, but his brief is focused solely on, as I said, Afghanistan-Pakistan.' On the envoy's travel plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the spokesman said he was not aware of any of his travel plans at this point. But at the time of his appointment he did say that he planned to get out to the region as soon as he could. Wood also declined to answer a question if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was considering Pakistan's request to stop US missile strikes that kill civilians. 'I'm not going to talk about those issues,' he said.