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Not an 'iota of change' in Kashmir policy: US

world Updated: Oct 22, 2013 11:09 IST
Jammu and Kashmir

Amid fears of a total collapse of the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan signed in 2003 following repeated violations by the latter along the international border in Jammu and Kashmir, the US on Monday said there has not been an "iota of change" in its policy on Kashmir, dismissing the latest Pakistani efforts to seek US intervention in this regard.

"On Kashmir, our policy has not changed an iota," a senior administration official told a group of reporters during a press conference, as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif started his US tour during which he will meet President Barack Obama.

Earlier in the day, Sharif, who arrived in the US on four-day official visit, sought US intervention in resolving the Kashmir issue. The US considers 'Kashmir' a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

Sharif's visit is the first by a Pakistani Prime Minister in more than five years. He is scheduled to meet Obama at the White House on October 23.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the senior official reiterated the well stated position of the Obama Administration that it is for India and Pakistan to determine the "pace, scope and character of their dialogue on Kashmir".

India has dismissed such a move.

Senior administration officials, however, expressed concerns over the terrorism emanating from inside of Pakistan and the impact this could have on the on-going peace talks between India and Pakistan after Sharif was voted to power in May this year.

"Cleary we would be concerned about the terrorist groups that would derail that dialogue process," the official said.

While the focus of the Obama-Sharif meeting would be bilateral relationship, including energy, economy and extremism, in addition to Afghanistan, officials said India would figure in the talks.

"We expect India to come up at some point (during the Obama-Sharif meeting). We have been very encouraged by steps that both India and Pakistan has taken," the senior administration official said.

He listed out the various steps taken by the two countries in this regard, included the recent meeting between the prime ministers of the two nations on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

"Obviously (they are) very positive," the official said, adding that the Obama administration is encouraged by steps the two countries have taken to resolve issues on the trade and energy side, in keeping with the "energy and economy theme" that Obama and Sharif would explore here.

The economic relationship, the official said, are particularly important.

On Sunday, India's external affairs minister Salman Khurshid had termed the multiple ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) as "regrettable", and said the only constructive way forward for the relationship between the two countries was if Pakistan dismantled its infrastructure of terrorism, delivered justice in the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 and made a sincere effort to comply with the ceasefire along the border.

Khurshid also expressed his confidence in the armed forces, and said that he fully believed that the Army was capable of protecting national interests along the LoC.