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India, Pakistan should stop the blame game: US Senator

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
April 13, 2009 23:43 IST
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The United States will help India and Pakistan "find a new way forward" only if they stop "pointing fingers at each other," a visiting top Senator said on Monday, even as Islamabad asserted that a "calm eastern border" is essential to focus on its war against terror in Afghanistan.

The US will help the both countries "find a new way forward" but at the same time New Delhi "needs to look at where it is going to be in 10 years," visiting US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry said at a joint news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

If India and Pakistan spent all their time "pointing fingers at each other and on the past", they would "never get to the future," Kerry added.

"The world wants Pakistan to focus on the western border because extremism and terrorism has to be dealt with. But to focus on the western border, Pakistan wants a calm eastern border," Qureshi said.

"And if we have a calm eastern border, it certainly makes our task easier," he added. The US Senator also made it clear that Richard Holbrooke had been appointed the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and India is not included in his brief.

"Issues like Kashmir have to be resolved separately," he said.

Kerry, who also met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, however, said he had told the top leadership that both India and Pakistan expend too much energy and resources on the bilateral front.

"It seems to me that in the long run there are larger interests and concerns on which all of our focus ought to be expended," Kerry said, noting that India and Pakistan had made significant progress in their peace process before last year's Mumbai terror attacks.

Kerry was of the opinion that both New Delhi and Islamabad "would like to get back to that at the appropriate time and my hope is that in the months ahead we will all be able to do that," adding that such a development would also help Pakistan's concerns about India's role in Afghanistan.

He side-stepped a series of pointed questions on Pakistani opposition to US drone attacks on its tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, saying he had heard the concerns of the country's leadership on this issue and would convey them to Washington. He said "collateral damage" from the drone attacks is "always unacceptable" and Pakistan and the US will have to work together to find ways to guarantee that nobody suffers.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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