Reach out to India, US tells Pakistan

April 24th, 2009 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 24 (IANS) Worried about a “blow up” between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the US is encouraging Islamabad to reach out to the Indian government and continue with previous confidence- building measures.

At the same time the US is working with the Indian government to make sure that they continue to exercise the kind of “remarkable” restraint they showed after the November Mumbai terror attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told worried lawmakers Wednesday.

“We are also encouraging the Pakistani government to reach out, to the Indian government, and to continue some of those confidence- building measures that they were doing, like opening the bus routes in Kashmir and other things that did have some positive effect,” she told a House panel.

“If Kashmir blows up, and insurgents come over that line of control, every day or at least every week, then all bets are off,” Clinton said.

“But if the Pakistani army stays on the line of control and on the Indian border and doesn’t turn their attentions to dealing with the insurgents, we’ve got a mess on our hands. So we do have to navigate through this.”

“Now, that’s part of what the highest levels of our administration are doing,” Clinton said referring to among other things to visits by CIA Director Leon Panetta to both New Delhi and Islamabad.

One of the reasons US was so concerned was nuclear weapons possessed by Pakistan, Clinton said. “You know, we’re-we spend a lot of time worrying about Iran. Pakistan already has them.

“And they are widely dispersed in the country. There’s not a central location, as you know. They are-you know, they’ve adopted a policy of dispersing their nuclear weapons and facilities.

“So it’s imperative that we do everything we can to keep India and Pakistan on a good basis so that when something pops up and they make an accusation and they fall back on what are, you know, just natural impulses to blame the other, it doesn’t escalate,” Clinton said.

Clinton assured lawmakers concerned about Islamabad’s unwillingness to fully recognise that the main threat to its security has shifted from India to extremists inside Pakistan that the Obama administration is preparing a list of benchmarks by which to measure progress in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“You know, on a simple measure, is the Pakistani military still amassing hundreds of thousands of troops on the Indian border, or have they begun to move those toward these insurgent areas? What kind of kinetic action are they taking? How much? Is (their ?) increasing up-tempo or not? Is it sporadic, so they start in and then they move back?”

But Clinton said the administration prefers that Congress not embody benchmarks in legislation to provide aid to Pakistan, saying they should be seen as a way to hold the administration accountable and not used to paralyse efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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