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Resolving Kashmir key to stability in S Asia: Mullen

December 23, 2009 11:51 IST

Resolving the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is key to stability in South Asia, where all terror groups including the Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Jaish-e-Muhammed are "working much more closely together" now than a year ago, top US military commander Mike Mullen has said.

"So I think it doesn't accurately reflect the need or the strategy to single out one group or another. They're very much all in this in ways, together, that they weren't as recently as 12 months ago," he said.

"I actually believe that the challenges that exist tied to the border in Kashmir are key to solving that or moving forward on that are critical in terms of the overall stability of the region," Admiral Mullen, chairman of the US joint chief of staff, said.

"So there's not one easy answer to any part of this but that is a key, and I think it's -- again, we all have responsibilities with respect to moving forward in a way that de-tensions the area, stabilises the area and doesn't continuously give fertile ground for extremists and terrorists to continue to kill innocent people," he told a group of Pakistani journalists during his recent visit to Islamabad.

Arguing the case for a regional strategy, Mullen said: "It's not focused on just one country -- and that there are significant issues between India and Pakistan that have existed for some time.

"I have said publicly before I think it's important that these be addressed -- that political leadership and international leadership, if you will, but in particular, political leadership of the two countries, step forward to address this issue," he said, according to transcripts of the press round-table made available in Washington.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Ann Patterson also said the Obama Administration was encouraging both Pakistan and India to resume the composite dialogue, which was really showing great success and promise until the attacks in Mumbai last year.

"I don't think it's any secret that Pakistan and India had made very significant success and made a lot of progress in resolving some of these issues in 2007. And the United States, and frankly every other country, is very hopeful that these engagements will resume again soon," Patterson said.
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