Clinton to India-Pakistan: Resolve Kashmir Issue Via Dialogue

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - President Bill Clinton has called on the governments of India and Pakistan to resolve their differences over the disputed territory of Kashmir with dialogue rather than military force.

Clinton earlier stated that the Kashmir dispute can be resolved only through restraint, renunciation of terrorism, and direct discussion between the two countries.

"I am troubled by the threat to peace posed by the Kashmir dispute," Clinton said in an interview published in the Indian newspaper, The Hindustan Times, on Sunday.

"I continue to believe that there cannot be a solution to the Kashmir issue without direct discussions between India and Pakistan," Clinton said. "For such discussions to take place, however, a climate of trust must be created through sincere efforts to end violence."

Washington has voiced concerns that Kashmir could become the trigger of yet another confrontation between the new nuclear powers.

Clinton praised Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for willing to conduct talks with the Kashmir rebels.

Vajpayee will visit Washington between September 15th and 17th at the invitation of Clinton, who visited India in March. He will leave for the US later this week to attend the UN millennium summit in New York.

"In recent months, there has been some steps towards addressing the dispute, including the commendable initiative by the Indian government and the regrettably short-lived Hizbul Mujahideen ceasefire," said Clinton.

The collapse of a ceasefire on August 8th, offered unilaterally by Kashmir's frontline Hizbul Mujahideen guerrilla group, has led to a spurt of separatist violence.

The US president said, "My belief that nobody's goals in Kashmir will be achieved through violence does not pre-ordain any particular type of settlement for the dispute.

"Our role is a simple one: to work with India and Pakistan for resumption of a dialogue that will lead to a resolution of the dispute. We will continue to do this. We are willing to offer further assistance if both countries request it, but we are not mediators," Clinton said.

Divided Kashmir has poisoned relations between Pakistan and India for years and has triggered two wars between the two neighbors since independence from Britain in 1947.

India insists that it would resume talks only if Pakistan stops abetting terrorists.

Washington is anxious to see New Delhi and Islamabad resume dialogue and prevent the two new nuclear powers from engaging in an armed conflict like the standoff in Kargil one year ago.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Clinton said, "We have identified some areas of agreement on the issues of security and non-proliferation, including support for the CTBT, beginning with negotiations in Geneva to end production of fissile material for weapons, and enhancing export controls. We also continue to discuss ways to achieve restraint in nuclear and ballistic missile systems while still providing for vital security needs.

"A nuclear arms race in the region would not be in India's interest or the world's. We have made some useful progress in our discussions, but there is more to be done. I look forward to continuing these talks during and after the Prime Minister's visit," Clinton said.

Since India's nuclear tests in May last year, Washington and New Delhi have engaged in a prolonged series of arms controls talks aimed at reconciling US non-proliferation concerns with Indian security interests.

New Delhi, citing regional threats, insists on a minimum nuclear deterrent. India released a draft nuclear doctrine in August that envisioned a sophisticated nuclear arsenal based on aircraft, naval and mobile land-based missiles.

Clinton said India's action in joining the CTBT would be an important step in bringing the treaty closer to implementation.

Asked whether the failure of the US Senate to ratify the treaty has effectively killed it, Clinton said, "The treaty is still very much alive. My administration has signed (and is) committed to its ratification and will continue to participate in international efforts to implement it.

India's national security advisor Brijesh Mishra has ruled out New Delhi's signing of the CTBT during Vajpayee's visit to the US.

"There are no plans to sign the CTBT in the immediate foreseeable future, before or after Vajpayee's visit to the US," Mishra said in an interview to be published in the latest issue of Outlook magazine.

"There is also no question of any pressure ... (But) anything can happen on the CTBT only after a consensus is achieved at home," Mishra added.

New Delhi is under pressure from the US to endorse the global treaty after conducting its May 1998 nuclear tests.

India says it could sign the CTBT provided it includes a time frame for global disarmament and a complete ban on computer-simulated nuclear tests.