Kashmir was never on Holbrooke's plate: US

31 January 2009
The Hindustan Times
Arun Kumar

Washington: The US has reiterated that Kashmir was never going to be part of the portfolio of Richard Holbrooke, its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, denying reports that Indian diplomats had managed to take it off his plate. 'As we've said before, that Kashmir was not going to be a part of Ambassador Holbrooke's portfolio. We've made that very clear,' State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday asserting that such a 'story in The Washington Post is not true.' 'And I would just say to you that, of course, India has a lot of interests in Afghanistan. Ambassador Holbrooke, other officials will be consulting with India,' he said. 'But you know, that. It was never being considered.' 'I'm saying that - well, that headline specifically is not true,' Wood said when asked if he had indeed described the Post story as not true. The Post had on Friday in a story from New Delhi headlined 'US Removes Kashmir From Envoy's Mandate; India Exults' had suggested that India had 'managed to prune the portfolio' of Holbrooke 'basically eliminating the contested region of Kashmir from his job description.' 'The deletion is seen as a significant diplomatic concession to India that reflects increasingly warm ties between the country and the United States,' it said citing South Asia analysts. 'What I'm saying to you is that in terms of Ambassador Holbrooke's portfolio, Kashmir was not going to be a part of that portfolio,' he said when pressed if he was suggesting that the Indian officials quoted in the story were wrong. 'It's been focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan. He's coordinating our entire US Government effort to try to improve the situation on the ground,' Wood said. 'It was always focused on, you know, Afghanistan-Pakistan,' he said denying that Holbrooke's portfolio at some point was a broader portfolio. The Post story on Friday citing 'several Indian officials and Indian news media reports' suggested,'Indian diplomats, worried about Holbrooke's tough-as-nails reputation, didn't want him meddling in Kashmir.' 'Holbrooke is nicknamed 'the Bulldozer' for arm-twisting warring leaders to the negotiating table as he hammered out the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia, a peace that has stuck,' it added. 'Holbrooke was originally tasked as the special envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan 'and related matters,' code for India and Kashmir,' Post said citing an unnamed US official in Washington. But on the morning Holbrooke's posting was announced, 'related matters' had been deleted from the description.