Pakistan must honour promise to
withdraw troops, says Albright
American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today called for the resumption of the Lahore process of direct dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad, but stressed the importance of Pakistan first "following through on its commitment" to withdraw its troops from the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir.
Albright, who had a ninety-minute meeting with External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh on the sidelines of the ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] Regional Forum in Singapore today, said the session was "very good".
Singh too described the talks as "friendly and productive" and hoped relations between India and the United States would break out of past prejudices and improve substantially.
This was the highest-level contact between the two countries since the Kargil crisis began.
Besides the Pakistani intrusion, Singh and Albright discussed nuclear non-proliferation and the question of "state-sponsored or -aided terrorism in India", among other things.
Albright said they discussed the need to make progress on non-proliferation issues as well as on Kashmir.
Singh repeated New Delhi's position that Kashmir is a bilateral issue to be resolved by India and Pakistan alone without any third party interfering.
Though US President Bill Clinton recently promised Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief that he would take "personal interest" in the matter of Kashmir, American officials insist they have no plans to mediate because India opposes any such mediation.
A senior American official said it was "an oversimplification to say that India said no" to any US involvement in the matter. "We are still in the process of assessing what kind of US role is going to be most productive, [but] we are not going to put ourselves forward as a mediator," he said.
The official said Singh reaffirmed India's commitment to a direct dialogue with Pakistan and pledged that signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would be "top priority" for whichever government is elected in September-October. Meanwhile, American and Indian negotiators agreed to continue working on a package of nuclear curbs that Washington and other major powers say India and Pakistan must adopt.
Clinton has invited Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the White House and revived plans to visit South Asia. But this will not happen until at least November, after a new government takes office in New Delhi, the official said.
Both India and the United States are attending the ARF as "dialogue partners" of ASEAN.
The Kargil Crisis
Tell us what you think of this report