Clinton Defers Role In South Asia Feud

30 October 2009
The Wall Street Journal

Islamabad: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, facing criticism in Pakistan for the U.S.'s expanding ties to India, ruled out Washington playing a formal mediation role between New Delhi and Islamabad on the issue of the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. Mrs. Clinton's position further diminished Pakistani hopes that the Obama administration would use its international stature to aggressively press for a resolution of the decades-old Kashmir conflict, which has fueled a nuclear-arms race in South Asia. President Barack Obama campaigned last year on the need for the U.S. to help fashion a 'regional' solution to the instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He specifically cited the importance of Kashmir and the damping of the India-Pakistan rivalry. The Obama administration has established a direct, public role in seeking to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the political crisis in Honduras. Mrs. Clinton, appearing on a Pakistani talk show Friday, said the Obama administration believed such a direct effort would be counterproductive in the conflict between New Delhi and Islamabad. 'It is clearly in Pakistan's and India's interest to resolve [their dispute]. But it isn't to us to dictate a solution,' Mrs. Clinton told the show, 'Our Voice.' 'That wouldn't last a minute.' Pressed by the studio audience, the secretary of state said Washington's role in the Arab-Israeli conflict was necessary because the Palestinians had yet to establish an independent state. She said Washington supported New Delhi and Islamabad returning to bilateral negotiations that froze after last year's attack by Pakistan-based terrorists in Mumbai. U.S. officials say Washington has quietly been working to build bridges between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has attempted to promote intelligence-sharing between New Delhi and Islamabad to guard against any future terrorist strikes. Pakistan said it is open to the U.S. playing a more direct role in resolving the Kashmir dispute, but Indian officials reject third-party mediation. New Delhi said it is open to resuming its bilateral dialogue with Pakistan, but needs Islamabad to crack down on the militant groups that attacked Mumbai. Mrs. Clinton concluded a three-day trip to Pakistan Friday aimed at smoothing Washington's relations with its chief ally in the fight against al Qaeda. The issue of India was raised at most public events where Mrs. Clinton appeared. She met with Pakistani lawmakers, journalists and civic leaders in Islamabad and Lahore. Pakistanis have particularly criticized a nuclear-cooperation agreement between Washington and New Delhi. The pact, reached last year, allows the U.S. and other nations to sell nuclear fuels and technologies to India, despite New Delhi's refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Islamabad argues that the pact could help India significantly outpace Pakistan's nuclear-weapons arsenal, despite stipulations in the agreement that none of the nuclear materials be used for military purposes. Pakistani leaders, citing their country's energy shortages, pressed Mrs. Clinton to help Islamabad get a similar deal. 'Why don't you set up some nuclear-based projects in Pakistan for the private sector?' textile executive Mian Muhammad Mansha asked Mrs. Clinton at a meeting with business leaders in Lahore. 'Let your companies come here.' Pakistanis who attended events with Mrs. Clinton also called on the U.S. to intervene in an intensifying water dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi. And they charged India was stoking ethnic unrest in the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh, a charge India's government denies.