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Kashmir is one of most tragic places: Albright

"Kashmir is still one of the most dangerous and tragic places," ex-US Secy of State said on Saturday.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2003 02:28 IST

In an address as powerful as the sobriquet she earned — the most powerful woman in the world, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright on Saturday described Kashmir as one of the 'most dangerous and tragic places in the world'.

Stressing the need to institutionalise the ceasefire between India and Pakistan, she asked Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism.

"Time has proved to be no healer...Kashmir is still one of the most dangerous and tragic places in the world," Albright said. "The peace process between India and Pakistan is as welcome as vital...ceasefire is helpful but more steps are required. Cross-border terrorism must cease and ceasefire must be institutionalised."

Albright was delivering the concluding address at the two-day Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative conference on 'Peace Dividend — Progress for India and South Asia'.

Albright has a strong Kashmir link. Her father Joseph Korbel had been posted in Kashmir as a member of the UN Commission on India and Pakistan. He had written a book titled Danger in Kashmir, which Albright is currently revising.

Spelling out a three-point recipe for peace, she said, "India and Pakistan must respect the Line of Control, renunciation of violence from Pakistan is required and the two countries must resume dialogue."

Observing that an early solution will be in the people's interest, she said, "The people of Kashmir suffer uniquely, they are buffered between terrorists on the one side and security forces that had sometimes failed to observe basic human rights."

She reaffirmed her opposition to India's and Pakistan's decision to conduct N-tests in 1998 and asked them to set up nuclear risk reduction centres. "I was accused of being arrogant and a hypocrite," she recalled and said she had not changed her basic position. She was also critical of the Republican administration's nuclear policies that led to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty being put on the back burner.

Slamming the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq issue, Albright said, "(The) Chaotic situation in Iraq is a magnet for groups who hate us...US is losing its influence and political capital because of Iraq."

The former secretary of state admitted that the Americans had made a strategic mistake in Afghanistan. The first mistake was ordering US troops to pull back from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. This mistake was compounded when, following the invasion of Afghanistan post 9/11, the US failed to follow through with adequate humanitarian aid and relief packages. The US had failed to stabilise the situation, she said.

"Two years ago when the Taliban was driven from power, hopes were high of a new era." Unfortunately, "Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are still at large and warlords continue to rule. Heroin and poppy production has risen by 3,600 per cent and crime is widespread," she said. "There is no effective international peacekeeping beyond Kabul." Albright said that Al-Qaeda, the target of the US invasion, had not only 'survived but thrived'.

She sought the help of the international community, especially countries like India, to re-build Afghanistan.

Amidst laughter, Albright said now that she was a former secretary of state, she could "answer" questions.

The session was moderated by Vir Sanghvi, Editor, Hindustan Times and was attended by a packed house comprising political and business leaders, foreign envoys, bureaucrats and strategic experts.

Albright for plebiscite

Kashmir solution: I think plebiscite can be a logical way to solve the issue. There is no other way to get Kashmiris to vote for which way they want to go

UNSC membership: I believe India should become a permanent member of the council

First Published: Dec 13, 2003 21:04 IST