US Encourages India-Pakistan Dialogue, Rules out Mediation

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 3 (IANS) Stressing that both India and Pakistan have legitimate security interests in Afghanistan, the United States says it encouraged a dialogue between the two neighbours but has ruled out any mediation between them.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India "are vastly different in culture, socio-economic standing, and political development, but they share a common strategic space," Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Tuesday.

"And in order to understand America's policy and America's policy dilemma, one has to understand that both India and Pakistan have legitimate security interests in the region," he said briefing reporters on his trip to the region.

"India has a legitimate interest even though they don't have a common border (with Afghanistan)," Holbrooke said suggesting a dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours. "And if one country says the other has no interest, then it's hard to have a dialogue."

"That's why President(Barack)Obama has said we encourage any sort of dialogue between the two countries, and Afghanistan is not the core of the issue, but it is a part of the issue," he said.

Among other very critical issues "water is a huge issue...and increasingly on our trips, people in both countries talk about water - and overall security relationships," Holbrooke said. "Other issues have arisen continually."

Noting that the US has "good relations with both India and Pakistan," the envoy said: "It is our view that it is in our national interest to improve relations with both countries - not at the expense of the other."

On the contrary, "by improving relations in both countries, we can move forward a general search for peace and stability in the region," Holbrooke said noting that this policy really began in 2000 when President Bill Clinton went to both countries, the first president to visit either country in 22 years since Jimmy Carter had gone in 1978.

"And since then, President (George) Bush has done the same thing. And we will - this is the overriding approach we have to the issue. And that's our starting point for the strategic overview of the region," he said.

Later State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley also reaffirmed that US has "encouraged both India and Pakistan to continue their dialogue."

"They are neighbours. As Richard just said, share the same strategic space. So we will continue to talk to both countries and encourage the very kind of dialogue we saw in recent days," he said referring to the recent foreign secretary level talks in New Delhi.

Asked if the US was playing a role other than encouraging it," Crowley said: "This is about the future relationship between two important allies. It is really for India and Pakistan to establish the kind of dialogue we think is in the long-term interest of both countries."

The spokesman responded with a "No" when asked if there was any kind of mediation at this time by the US.


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