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We won't interfere in Kashmir imbroglio: US

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
March 28, 2009 10:46 IST
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President Barack Obama's much respected National Security Adviser, Retd James L Jones made clear that while the President's new comprehensive strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan includes encouraging a rapprochement between India and Pakistan, it will absolutely not include any efforts to bring about a resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio.

Asked by a Pakistani journalist to expand on President Obama's remarks on a regional approach and how with what's going on with India and Pakistan if the US in encouraging talks between India and Pakistan, also hopes to encourage discussions on the Kashmir issue "to turn the heat down in the region so that Pakistan can focus totally on the war on terror," Jones said, "We don't intend to get involved in that issue."

"But, we do intend to help both countries have a -- build more trust and confidence so that Pakistan can address the issues that it confronts on the western side of the nation."

However, Jones, appearing at the Foreign Press Centre, reiterated emphatically, "But no, Kashmir is a separate issue. But we think that the times are so serious that we need to build the trust and confidence in the region, so that nations can do what they need to do in order to defeat the threat that I discussed a few minutes ago."

In his opening remarks, Jones declared that "the cornerstone of this strategy is that it's a regional approach. And for the first time, we will treat Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but as -- with one challenge in one region."

He acknowledged that "our strategy focuses more intensely on Pakistan than in the past, and this is normal, because it's a newer problem, and this calls for more significant increases in US and international support, both economic and military, linked to performance against terror."

Jones said that 'we will pursue intensive regional diplomacy involving all key players in South Asia and engage countries in a new trilateral framework as -- at the highest levels of the countries, being Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. Together in this trilateral format, we will work to enhance intelligence sharing, military cooperation along the border, and address common issues such as trade, energy, and economic development."

He said, "As America does more, we will ask others to join us in doing their part. Together with the United Nations, the Administration will forge a new contact group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region -- our NATO allies and other partners, the Central Asian states, Gulf nations, Iran, Russia, India and China."

"All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development in the region," he added.

Also taking a hefty swipe at the foreign policy of the erstwhile Bush Administration, Jones said, "I trust that you have already -- in the 60 days since this Administration took its post -- that you've noticed a change in tone and a change in the conduct of American foreign policy."

"We're working very hard to bring a new level of dialogue and a new level of discussion and consultation with all of our allies and friends around the world," he said.

Jones asserted that "the United States is interested in listening. It's interest in, obviously, leading, but in partnering with countries around the world to confront common challenges. Afghanistan and Pakistan and the region certainly is one such challenge," he said.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC