No change in Kashmir policy, says US

Published August 10, 2019
State dept spokesperson describes Kashmir as “certainly an important issue” that the US continued to “follow closely”.  — AFP/File
State dept spokesperson describes Kashmir as “certainly an important issue” that the US continued to “follow closely”. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday that there has been no change in its policy on Kashmir, as Washington continues to regard it as a territory disputed between India and Pakistan.

At a US State Department news briefing, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus des­cribed Kashmir as “certainly an incredibly important issue” that the United States continued to “follow closely”.

“No,” said Ms Ortagus when asked if there has been any change in the US policy on Kashmir. “No. And if there were, I certainly wouldn’t be announcing it here, but no, there’s not. Because we would let someone more important (person) like the president do that.”

Underlining the strategic importance of the South Asian region, Ms Ortagus said that the United States has remained “incredibly engaged” with India and Pakistan over Kashmir and other issues.

The United States is at the top of the list of countries that Pakistan reached out to earlier this week, when India revoked Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under the Indian constitution. To prevent a backlash against this highly unpopular decision, India also imposed a curfew on India-held Kashmir.

The Indian action and its consequences were also discussed at the State Department briefing. Asked if US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had reached out to his counterparts in India and Pakistan since the revocation, Ms Ortagus said Mr Pompeo met the Indian foreign policy chief in Bangkok recently and “he speaks with his counterparts on a daily basis”.

Noting that several State Department officials were in the region now, she said: “We have a lot of engagement with India and Pakistan. Obviously, we just had Prime Minister Khan here, not just because of Kashmir.”

She said that while Kashmir was an “incredibly important issue”, there were “a host of (other) issues” on which the United States worked “quite closely” with both India and Pakistan.

Reminded that Prime Minister Khan had accused India of planning a genocide in Kashmir. Ms Ortagus said: “I really don’t want to go beyond what we’ve said, because it’s such a tenuous issue. It’s something that we’re talking to them about quite closely.”

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2019

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