US Envoy In Kashmir Wanted To Understand ‘Feasibility’ Of Dialogue

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Srinagar—A United States diplomat visited Srinagar and met three state ministers and civil society activists less than three weeks before the Centre appointed Dineshwar Sharma an interlocutor to initiate dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir, a media report said on Saturday.

Quoting sources, a Delhi-based newspaper reported that the diplomat wanted “to know the ground situation and understand the feasibility of a dialogue”.

On September 27, Joshua Goldberg, political unit chief at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in Washington DC, visited Srinagar along with David Arulanantham, an official from the US Embassy in New Delhi.

Sources said Goldberg and David stayed for a night and met three ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government, human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz, Khurram Parvez of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and two journalists.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had arrived in India a day earlier — the first cabinet-level visit to India under the Trump administration.

Sources said Goldberg was interested to “know the ground situation and viability of a reach out from Delhi, a dialogue process”.

“He was, in diplomatic style, enquiring about the scope for dialogue and whether Kashmiris would welcome dialogue,” one among those who met Goldberg told the newspaper.

“He also wanted to know the ground situation, especially after last year’s agitation and spurt in militant recruitment.”

Washington sees Kashmir as a “disputed” territory between India and Pakistan and favours a dialogue between the arch-rivals armed with nuclear weapons that have fought at least three wars over the territory besides a bloody confrontation in Kargil that took place between May and July 1999.

Washington, earlier this year, had declared the Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a “global terrorist” with a clarification that it did not reflect a change in the US policy on Kashmir.

The reference to the need for “a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict” and the description of the territory as “Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir,” — although largely ignored in Pakistan — was noted by opposition parties in India.

In a statement to a Pakistani newspaper, a State Department spokesperson had said that Washington saw Kashmir as a dispute that needed to be resolved peacefully.

“The pace, scope, and character of any discussions on Kashmir is for the two sides to determine, but we support any and all positive steps India and Pakistan can take to forge closer relations,” the newspaper had quoted the spokesperson as having said.

According to Diplomatic observers in Washington, the designation statement and the US position on Kashmir showed that while eager to forge a close relationship with India, the United States also wanted to maintain its ties with Pakistan.

“I want to make a point here that US relationships with India and Pakistan really stand on their own merits and terms,” the official had said at a special briefing a day before Monday’s White House meeting between the Indian prime minister and the US president.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had at a press conference early this year said she expected the US administration to be in talks and try and “find its place to be a part of” de-escalating tensions, stating, “We don’t think, we should wait till something happens.”

US President Donald Trump before his election to the White House had offered to mediate on Kashmir something that didn’t go well with India. Pakistan had welcomed the offer.

 

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