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India, Pak should have greater contact: Britain

"We now need to ensure that there is an end to terrorism and a beginning of a process of greater contact between the two countries. In due course, I hope that it will be possible to hold discussions that will lead to a peaceful settlement of the disputes, including those in relation to Kashmir," Britain's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mike O'Brien said in the House of Commons.

india Updated: Nov 08, 2002 15:55 IST

Hoping that the recent assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be a step in a broader process that will bring peace in the region, Britain today said as a follow-up terrorism should be put to an end and India and Pakistan should begin the process of greater contact.

"We now need to ensure that there is an end to terrorism and a beginning of a process of greater contact between the two countries. In due course, I hope that it will be possible to hold discussions that will lead to a peaceful settlement of the disputes, including those in relation to Kashmir," Britain's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mike O'Brien said in the House of Commons.

Replying to specific questions raised by Dari Taylor and Andrew Love, on his assessment of the recent elections in Jammu and Kashmir, O'Brien said despite high levels of violence and intimidation during the elections, the "Indian election commission has made strenous efforts to deliver free and fair elections. Many Kashmiris chose to participate. We hope that the election will be a step in a broader process that will bring peace to the region."

The tension between India and Pakistan had reduced in recent weeks, O'Brien said. He recalled his recent visit to New Delhi coinciding with India's annoucement of its intention to re-deploy forces from the border and said "that is certainly to be welcomed".

Pakistan responded by announcing return to barracks of some of its forces. There has been a broad welcome for that de-escalation by both sides.

"Both Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have shown that they do not want war and that they want a peaceful way forward," O'Brien said.

Sharing the concern of members about cross-border infiltration, he said the matter has been raised regularly with the Pakistani government.

"We are ensuring that the Pakistani government are aware of our continued concern and we are working with them in order to try to ensure that those promises made by Musharraf that there will be no further movement across the line of control, are indeed kept," he said.

He hoped that the election and other steps taken in the South Asian region could be part of a process that would begin to heal some of the pain and the disputes that have bedevilled the region for so long.


US Scholar for tougher US posture towards Musharraf

Advocating the need for adopting a tougher US posture towards President Pervez Musharraf, an American scholar has charged that Washington has "carefully avoided" criticising the Pakistani leader for failing to fulfull his pledge to stop cross-border infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir.

"This pussyfooting approach toward the Pakistani leader is demeaning to the United States and can only encourage him to continue his defiance of US efforts to stop nuclear proliferation and to defuse the Kashmir issue," Selig S Harrison, an expert on Asian affairs and a former journalist, wrote in the San Jose Mercury newspaper.

He also criticised Secretary of State Colin Powell for trying to "cover up" for the Pakistan President, although it was clear that Musharraf had supplied uranium enrichment technology to North Korea, by saying that it had happened before the military coup in 1999.

The fact that Pakistan is under the control of a military regime underlines the danger that Islamabad may transfer more nuclear technology not only to North Korea but also to al-Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups, Harrison wrote.

The Bush administration, he said, was "afraid to speak frankly" about Pakistan because it feared that Islamabad might end its cooperation in fighting al-Qaeda terrorists.

"American leverage can and should be used to bring about a rollback of his dictatorial powers, a transition to civilian rule and an end to cross-border incursions in Kashmir," he said.

First Published: Nov 08, 2002 15:41 IST