- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

The U.S. government must become more involved in a final settlement of the dispute over Kashmir that has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of nuclear war, the former prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir said in an interview yesterday.
"In all the disputes over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, nothing has ever been resolved without the use of a third party," said Sardar Abdul Qayyum, leader of Pakistan's portion of the divided province from 1990 to 1996 and now head of a committee on Kashmir issues working closely with the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
"I personally believe that India should not be allowed to use U.S. pistols on the chest of Pakistan" in the Kashmir dispute, Mr. Qayyum said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
A delegation of Pakistani diplomats and former officials argued that while the Bush administration has become more involved in the standoff between the two South Asian nuclear rivals in recent months, a clear vision from Washington is needed on an ultimate political settlement for Kashmir.
"The United States has been like the fire brigade," said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Pakistan's information minister from 1997 to 1999, "but it has never put forward a strategic resolution to the underlying dispute.
"Washington has such a resolution for the Middle East, but never one for Kashmir, where the stakes are infinitely higher."
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1948. New Delhi has threatened military action after claiming Pakistan has not done enough to restrain Islamic militants battling Indian troops in India's only Muslim-majority province.
Pakistan's Gen. Musharraf has said he is doing all he can to restrain cross-border incursions. Islamabad accuses Indian officials of exploiting the U.S.-led war on terrorism to punish their neighbor and impose a political settlement on Kashmir.
Complicating the situation is an indigenous separatist movement in Kashmir that has fought its own political and military battles for independence for more than a decade.
India, enjoying a marked conventional military superiority on the ground, consistently has rejected suggestions of outside mediation over Kashmir.
In a sign of escalating U.S. concern, President Bush has dispatched Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the region over the next 10 days on separate missions to ease tensions.
But State Department spokesman Philip Reeker gave little indication yesterday that the Bush administration was focusing much beyond calming tensions.
"Our position is that it needs to be a dialogue between the two sides, taking into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir. I think that is as far as it goes," Mr. Reeker said.
Stephen Cohen, a South Asia analyst at the Brookings Institution, said pressure is growing on the U.S. government to devise a policy that goes beyond simply urging both sides to restrain themselves.
"It's up to American diplomacy to start coming up with some new ideas," Mr. Cohen said.


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