March 23?, 2000
Washington - US President Bill Clinton on Wednesday said: "... there are elements within the Pakistan government that have supported those who engaged in violence in Kashmir." He told a US television network that during his stopover in Islamabad on March 25, he would be talking to General Pervez Musharraf about it. He added that Pakistan has to have a "non-violent plan" for resolving differences with India.
Rejecting Pakistan's demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir, he said a lot had changed since a 1948 UN resolution on the subject and affirmed that he was opposed to violence in Jammu and Kashmir propagated by "elements" within the Pakistani government. In the first statement by an American President against plebiscite in Kashmir, Clinton told , "Well, there have been a lot of changes since 1948, including what happened in 1971 and a number of things since." He had been asked by Peter Jennings, the main anchor person of ABC World News, during the interview in New Delhi as to whether he supported the Kashmiris' right to a referendum. "Do you support the right as it was laid out by the UN in 1948, for them to have a plebiscite on their future?" the interviewer asked.
Clinton went on to say what he would support "some process" by which the legitimate grievances of Kashmiris are addressed. "And the Indians have to have some way of talking to their own Kashmiris about it that recognises there is not a military solution," he added.
When the interviewer asked him if Pakistan's ISI facilitates the infiltration of fighters to Kashmir, Clinton said: "I believe that there are elements within the Pakistan government that have supported those who engaged in violence in Kashmir," the US President responded. On the differences between the two neighbours, he said: "I just don't think that this is the way to deal with Kashmir and I don't think it's a good enough reason to drive, in effect, the whole existence, the whole policy of the Pakistani government." Maintaining that he wanted to continue to be a good ally for Pakistani people, he said: "I think they (military rulers) have to have a plan for restoring democracy and they have to have a non-violent plan for resolving their differences with India."
Asked if it meant that the US would give advice but not get involved in settling the Kashmir issue, he said, "I don't think the United States can be involved in a three-way attempt to settle the Kashmir issue unless and until they both want us (to do so)." Asked if he would tell Pakistan that it should respect the Line of Control (LoC), Clinton said: "Absolutely". He said he would try to convince both sides to avoid the worst. "But if they stay sort of bunkered down in unapproachable positions, then I think we'll have to work very hard to avoid a more difficult situation." Asserting that the situation in Kashmir was difficult, he said what really matters in terms of an ultimate resolution is "that the people of Kashmir feel that their legitimate interests are being addressed in some formal fashion."
Asked about India's opposition to third party mediation in Kashmir, Clinton said, "I think what they say is that we (the US) have no role in Kashmir. And they have every right to say that ... But I think the United States does have an interest in trying to avert a larger conflict and trying to reduce the tensions between the two countries. I think we do have a clear interest there." "Right now, the important thing is respecting the Line of Control, reducing violence and finding a way to resume the dialogue. Now, beyond that it is up to them."
He said the best chance the Pakistanis could have of having a positive impact on "legitimate concerns" of the people in Jammu and Kashmir "is through a dialogue, not through acts of violence and supporting acts of violence." He said for many years, Pakistanis thought that the US might get involved, but "I am not going to be dragged into something... that India does not want us to be part of."
He said the US had "honest disagreement" with India on the nuclear issue but trusted New Delhi's assertion that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. "I believe Prime Minister Vajpayee when he says, `I will never be the first to use nuclear weapons'," Clinton said.