McCain lauds improving security in Jammu and Kashmir (Lead)

August 18th, 2011 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) Fresh from a visit to Jammu and Kashmir, US Senator John McCain Thursday said he was “encouraged” to see peace and security returning to the state, but added that there will be “continued tensions” as long as the Kashmir issue is important for India and Pakistan.

Lauding India’s role in Afghanistan, McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in the 2008 US election, also aired concern over the “troubling connection” between the Pakistani military and terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba in that country.

“I am encouraged from what I saw in Kashmir, the sense of security returning to one of the most exquisite beautiful places on Earth,” he said.

McCain, who spent two days in the state where he met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Governor N.K. Vohra, underlined that people in the state were living more normal lives and there was better handling of issues by the authorities.

The influential senator from Arizona hoped that economic progress will continue to grow stronger in the state. However, he added that despite an improvement in situation, there will be continued tensions as long as the issue remains of significance to both countries (India and Pakistan).

He made it a point to stress that “Kashmir is an internal matter” and it was not the US or any other nation’s place to comment on sovereign affairs of a country.

McCain met National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon Thursday morning and discussed a swathe of issues relating to the burgeoning India-US strategic partnership.

“The US has a critical stake in India’s success,” McCain said. He expressed confidence that the India-US relationship “can be and should be the indispensable partnership of the 21st century”.

Asked if he discussed Kashmir during his meeting with Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, McCain said the focus was on the changing ties between the US and Pakistan during his discussions with Pakistani leaders last week.

He spoke about the increasing realisation among Americans on the “troubled connections” between Pakistan military and terrorist groups such as Haqqani network and LeT.

“The troubling connection remains between Pakistan’s military and terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar e-Taiba who are killing Indians, Afghans and Pakistanis,” McCain said.

Alluding to the ongoing debate in the US about a rethink among the powers-that-be in Washington about its ties with Islamabad, McCain said: “This is a time for intensive reflection about our relations with Pakistan. The US must develop a realistic relationship with Pakistan.”

McCain hoped that Pakistan will emerge “a successful democratic nation” and underlined the need for strengthening democratic civilian rule in that country.

Praising India’s role in the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, the senator emphasised that the US has resolved not to let the Taliban return to Afghanistan and was trying to help develop a secure nation that “will not be a base for terrorists.”

“India has already played a constructive role. Economically, India continues to play a larger role in Afghanistan,” he said.

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