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July 14, 1999
US hopes Lahore initiative will overcome Indo-Pak suspicion
C K Arora in Washington
The Clinton administration hopes the resumption of the ''Lahore process'' may help India and Pakistan overcome the ''continued problems of suspicion and mistrust,'' which act as a major hurdle in their coming to grips with contentious issues, including Kashmir.
State department spokesman James Rubin said this was the reason that the US considered it important for both sides to pursue the dialogue after the end of the two-month-old conflict in Kargil.
He welcomed the ''significant'' reduction in fighting following the agreement between India and Pakistan to restore the Line of Control in Kashmir. Rubin took note of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's Monday speech in which he said Pakistan wanted peace and called for a renewed dialogue with India.
Sharief had also expressed his appreciation for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement during his February visit to Pakistan that he wanted to begin a new era of bilateral relations.
''We support these sentiments strongly and urge both countries to resume their dialogue under the Lahore process once the fighting has ended,'' Rubin said.
Asked whether the US would offer any kind of incentives to either country in terms of trade or anything like that for the resumption of dialogue, he said, "Our impression of what was decisive was that both sides recognised that further escalation was going to be a disaster for both sides."
He referred to President Clinton's meeting with Prime Minister Sharief on July 4, during which he indicated that if progress continued in their dialogue, he would be ''interested in going to the region soon.'' However, no dates had been set for the visit.
''Beyond that, let me just say that we think that the two leaders and the two countries have made wise decisions in not letting the situation get out of control and seeking to return to the time when they held out hope that these kind of problems could be resolved through dialogue between the two of them,'' Rubin said.
He parried a question about Islamabad's role in encouraging ''guerillas'' to cross into the Indian side violating the LoC. ''There will be plenty of time for after-action analysis. At this point, I think it would be most important for us to get the job done and have the two sides fulfil their commitments and go through with the necessary steps to stand down from a potential confrontation,'' the state department official added.
He, however, said, the US had certainly indicated throughout the conflict that it was concerned about the infiltration of Pakistan-supported fighters into India. ''We never hid that fact, in our view,'' he added.
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