‘America can play a role in solving the Kashmir issue’

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Pakistan’s Kashmir Affairs minister Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo tells Kunal Majumder the Indo-Pak dialogue should restart

PM Manmohan Singh said India is not afraid of the K-word and will talk to Pakistan. How will Islamabad reciprocate?
It is good news that US President Barack Obama mentioned Kashmir and asked India and Pakistan to resolve the issue. The mere mention of Kashmir during the visit of an American president to India is a big thing. After many years, Kashmir has once again become an international issue. The global community is realising that Kashmir is at a boiling point and could burst into flames anytime. This issue should not be left to destroy the peaceful atmosphere in the subcontinent. Therefore, I think Singh’s statement is a welcome initiative. But talks can only happen when we resume our dialogue. Pakistan is always willing to restart the process.

But Pakistan claims India has stalled the talks.
It was India that stopped the dialogue process after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. There must be a probe and those responsible, both in India and Pakistan, should be punished. We have never tried to stop the process of justice. Pakistan has always raised the issue of resuming talks at every possible forum. The dialogue did resume at the secretary level, but it was unproductive.

The Indian PM also raised the issue of terror from Pakistan’s soil. What is Islamabad doing about it?
Our government is committed to stopping terrorism from its soil towards India. We will not be involved in terrorism, nor will we allow terrorism to crop up from our soil. You might have noticed that there haven’t been any such activities in Kashmir or India for quite some time. We are implementing our promise.

Obama says he is happy to play a role but will not impose any solution on Kashmir. What role should the US play?
America is a superpower. Its relations with India have improved a lot in the past few years. It is also a strategic partner of Pakistan. Therefore it can play an important role. It can ask India to take two steps back to resolve this issue. It can also ask the same from Pakistan.

Wouldn’t this mean the involvement of a third party in the affairs of India and Pakistan?
If third-party intervention can help resolve the issue, then why not? A third party will not be able to impose anything, it will merely suggest. Both India and Pakistan are sovereign states, so the US cannot impose any solution. But it can help us as a friend.

Our Parliament has already declared the whole of Jammu & Kashmir as a part of India. So, how can there be a negotiation on seceding territories?
Jawaharlal Nehru had made the United Nations pass a resolution demanding a plebiscite in Kashmir. Isn’t there any importance attached to that resolution? If India can ignore that, I don’t see any importance in the resolution passed by your Parliament.

Obama said a strong and stable Pakistan is in India’s interest. How do you view that statement?
He is absolutely right. If the Pakistan economy prospers, unemployment and discontentment will end. Countries that develop economically do not want to be involved in violence or war. Democracy will further help people’s representatives to focus on developing infrastructure, spreading education, etc. India is a fast developing country and some say it is going to become an economic superpower. In such a scenario, can India afford a war? War will stop all development.

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