The United States wants India and Pakistan to resume talks but would leave it to the two countries to decide on how and when to approach that dialogue, visiting US Under Secretary of State William Burns said here on Thursday.
Burns, who called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to deliver a letter from US President Barack Obama, said, “The US has always welcomed dialogue between India and Pakistan and better relations between the two countries. But it is also obvious that pace, scope and character of dialogue is something Indian and Pakistani leaders have to decide.”
His comments came as a South Block official, who requested anonymity, told Hindustan Times a meeting between Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was likely on the sidelines of a conference in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Monday.
In Islamabad, a foreign office spokesman did not rule out a “chance encounter” between the two leaders, who will be in Russia for a Shanghai Coope-ration Organisation summit.
While Burns refused to comment on the contents of Obama’s letter, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan said in Washington that it was a “private letter”.
“India is a country that we must keep in closest consultations with. We consider India an absolutely critical country in the region. They’re not part of the problem, but they are vitally affected, and we want to work closely with them,” Holbrooke stressed.
“It remains our view that resolution of the Kashmir issue has to take into account wishes of Kashmiri people,” said Burns, the third highest-ranking US State Department official, in response to a question on Kashmir.
On 26/11, he said Pakistan has to take “concrete steps” to ensure there is “no repeat” of it. “Pakistan has a special responsibility to act immediately and fully and thoroughly. We continue to push hard for the Pakistani government to act firmly to bring those responsible to justice...”
Burns also announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit India next month. “The secretary’s visit is a reflection of the importance attached to this relationship.”