No new proposal on Kashmir: US

On the eve of Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani’s visit to the US, the Bush administration has made it clear it has no new proposal on Kashmir, leaving India and Pakistan to settle their 56-year-old dispute through direct talks.

“I don’t think I have anything brand new right now,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a media briefing.

Asked about the “next step” the US had in mind on Kashmir, he said, “what the next step is … is to work on what we’ve been working on; that is, to try to get the parties to talk to each other, to try to get some peaceful resolution of the serious issues that are at stake.”

Advani will have a busy schedule here that includes discussions with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft. This will be his second visit to the US as a senior member of the Vajpayee cabinet.

Appreciating the importance the Kashmir issue had for both India and Pakistan, Boucher said: “It’s important for us to look for ways to solve…to deal with the issues between the two governments and also to deal with the issues for the people of Kashmir.

“So that process is certainly made more likely, more positive and more successful by an end to the violence, and that’s what we’re trying to work on, both.”

He added: “This is an issue of importance to us. It’s an issue that we have pursued with each of the parties as we have pursued a better relationship ourselves with each of the parties.”

Boucher said the US had hailed many of the recent steps that followed after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan in April.

“We certainly continue to support those kinds of steps. We have welcomed steps that they’ve taken with each other in terms of opening up, in terms of opening up communications routes and sending representatives back,” he said.

“We’ll continue to work with them to try to work towards a way that they can talk to each other, that they can deal with all these issues, including Kashmir.”

In reply to a question, he referred to terrorism in Kashmir and the killings of innocent people and said: “That needs to be stopped. And we have looked at the ways that it can be stopped.

“We have heard from the Pakistani prime minister that he wants to stop the cross-border activity because he considers that one way that he can contribute to stopping the murder of innocent people. And that’s an important thing that he is going to do, committed to do, and we expect him to do it.”

Asked about the state of India-US relations, Boucher said: “We have a very active and positive relationship with India. We see each other all the time at high levels. We have a very expanded working on a wide range of issues out there with the Indian government.

“So we intend to continue to pursue all those areas in our conversations at high levels with the Indian government to develop and expand a relationship that’s been very important to us and to India as well. And there are always a lot of new things that we’re working on.”

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