WASHINGTON: The United States said on Monday that the Kashmir dispute was different from the broader issue of terrorism in South Asia and those two issues should not be confused with each other.
“We are talking about two separate issues here. I want to make a distinction between the Kashmir issue and the broader issue of our concern about extremism in that region,” a State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told a briefing in Washington.
Responding to a question by an Indian journalist who tried to link the Kashmir issue with the terrorism practised by Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, Ms Harf said: “I will emphasise that these are two separate issues and our views on both are well-known.”
Reiterating the US position of treating Kashmir as a dispute that needs to be settled in bilateral discussions between India and Pakistan, she said: “Our position on Kashmir has not changed.”
Ms Harf said that the US was aware of recent developments in the region and continued to be concerned about any violence along the Line of Control.
“We continue to press and hope that India and Pakistan will continue the steps they have recently taken to improve their bilateral relations. We have always said that they need to keep taking steps that build trust,” she said.
Asked if the US had urged India and Pakistan to expedite their efforts for retaining peace in the region, Ms Harf said: “We believe that pace, scope and character of India-Pakistan dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine.”
When an Indian journalist suggested that the peace process could not be maintained if attacks along the Line of Control continued, the US official said: “These are discussions that happen between these two countries and their own two governments and that’s the appropriate place that determination to be made.”
Ms Harf said that it would be “getting ahead” of events on the ground to suggest that South Asia was moving towards yet another war between two nuclear-armed neighbours.
“I hope that they will continue the steps that they have recently taken to improve bilateral relations,” she said.
When reminded that Indian troops also had attacked a Pakistani position across the international border in Sialkot, she said: “We remain concerned about any incident of violence” but it would be hypothetical to suggest that such incidents could lead to a war.