Washington, August 1 — As Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Pakistan, American officials said the US was very supportive of recent moves by India and Pakistan to normalise relations, but there was no change in its hands off Kashmir policy.
“There’s no change in policy in terms of where we are on that,” a senior administration official accompanying Kerry told reporters on way to Islamabad Thursday when asked if he expected to have a conversation about Kashmir with the Pakistani Government.
“We do not see ourselves or seek to be in the middle of any conversation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir,” he said according to a transcript of the background briefing released here by the state department.
“But certainly we are very supportive of the moves that both India and Pakistan have made to normalise relations,” the official added.
The new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he noted had “already begun the outreach to India and with good cooperation on the Indian side as well in trying to jumpstart the normalisation process.”
The official said “the great strides in normalisation on the economic side have been very important the last few years and have really paved the way for better and more constructive conversations on the political side.”
“So we’ll see where that continues to lead,” he said recalling that during his India visit last month, Kerry had “called on the Indians to continue that process of facilitation, as well as the Pakistanis to do things like provide MFN (Most favoured nation) status to the Indians.”
“And I’m sure that that will be part of the conversations that we continue to have,” the official said. “But we are external actors in this. We are in no way seeking to broker any sort of conversation on Kashmir.”
In meetings with Sharif, army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and outgoing president Asif Ali Zardari, Kerry is expected to press the new government on eliminating militant safe-havens as US-led troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next year.
Asked about Pakistan’s refusal to give up their use of proxies through certain domestic terrorist groups in the Indo-Pak context, the official said this would be a part of the conversation with the Pakistanis.
“As we’ve said to them in the past, fostering or helping in any way to provide some sort of base for extremism is ultimately not in any of our interests, including in Pakistan’s interest,” he said.
“We’ll have to see where the new government is on this and what they’re willing to do as how they see it as part of their broader efforts at promoting stability,” the official said.
“That’s in large part one of the reasons we want to have to this conversation face to face and see how far we can move this forward.”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])