US Pushes For Kashmir Peace Deal

18 November 2009
The Daily Telegraph
Dean Nelson and Jalees Andrabi

New Delhi: In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the leader of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, said there had been a flurry of activity between New Delhi, Washington and Islamabad to kick-start a new dialogue. The dispute over Kashmir has blighted relations between India and Pakistan since their partition at independence in 1947, caused three wars between the two countries and an insurgency which has claimed more than 47,000 lives. Mirwaiz was speaking after it emerged the Indian government has been holding secret talks with senior Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi to promote a new peace process. According to Western diplomats, the Obama administration believes a settlement on Kashmir, or even a credible, inclusive peace process would allow Pakistan to focus its energies on fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in its tribal areas close to the Afghan border. They said the heightened tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai last November led to a temporary rapprochement between Pakistani military chiefs and Taliban leaders which had caused alarm in London and Washington. According to Mirwaiz, President Barack Obama's aides now regard a Kashmir solution as an urgent priority, while U.S officials insist its policy that it is not involved in mediation has not changed. 'The peace in the region is directly and indirectly related to resolution of Kashmir dispute. The stage has passed when India objected to US mediation in solving the Kashmir issue. The Obama administration has fully realised that the resolution of Kashmir issue is pivotal in bringing peace to the region,' he said. 'When I met President Zardari in September in New York, he told me [U S Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan] Richard Holbrooke's mandate is Kashmir although it is not very much open. He is coming to Delhi and Islamabad not to talk about Afghanistan but Kashmir,' he added. The dialogue will be based on proposals made by Pakistan's former military ruler General Musharraf in 2006, under which Islamabad would renounce its claim on Kashmir if Indian forces withdrew from the state and introduced self-government and joint monitoring between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders. 'India has to come out of Mumbai attacks and start a dialogue with Pakistan The international community is concerned about the prevailing situation in Pakistan. [It] is in a situation where it [does] not need to be pushed against a wall. Pakistan wants U.S intervention in solving Kashmir issue to help the U.S in Afghanistan,' said Mirwaiz.