WASHINGTON - The United States said Wednesday that it wants to see the recent ‘economic warming’ between India and Pakistan pave the way to a ‘better conversation’ on the decades-old Jammu and Kashmir dispute as well.
“We want to see this economic warming extend to other areas,” State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland told the daily press briefing, while stating that there was no change in Washington’s Kashmir policy. She was responding to a question from an Indian correspondent whether the clashes at the United Nations between Indian and Pakistani delegates over Kashmir could derail the peace process, and he sought US, position on the dispute. “With regard to our own policy on Kashmir, it hasn’t changed. It’s been the same for a very long time,” Nuland told reporters. (The United States recognises Kashmir as disputed territory, but insists that it should be resolved through a dialogue between India and Pakistan).
The spokesperson lauded the ongoing peace process between the two South Asian nations, especially in the economic field. “We have said for some time that we applaud the progress that India and Pakistan have made in their dialogue, particularly on the economic side.
“We are encouraged that they’ve taken some concrete steps to normalise trade relations, including the recently signed agreement on visa liberalisation.
We want to see this economic warming extend to other areas,” Nuland added.
Responding to a question, also from the Indian correspondent, Nuland said the issue of Kashmir did not come up during the meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Asif Ali Zardari held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York last week.
Pushing the issue further - there were no Washington-based Pakistani correspondents present - the Indian correspondent complained that while the United States always talks about human rights violations in India’s part of Kashmir, it never takes note of the ‘horrible’ human rights situation in ‘Pakistani Kashmir’.
“I would say that we do talk about human rights regularly with the Pakistan government. We report on these things in our annual Human Rights Report. So obviously, human rights in Pakistan is something that we watch carefully and that’s important to us,” Nuland replied.
“On the broader issue of Kashmir, as I said, we want to see this economic warming now translate into a better conversation on that issue as well.”
The same Indian correspondent asked about India’s role in Afghanistan, the spokesperson said, it was ‘constructive’. “India’s been a big economic investor. It’s been a big development investor. It’s been supportive of police force strengthening in Afghanistan. And they’ve been a big contributor to the broader Silk Road vision that the Secretary strongly supports. So India is playing a constructive role in Afghanistan’s future.”