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June 9, 1999
US snubs Pak over LoC
C K Arora in Washington
In what appears to be a virtual snub to Pakistan, the United States has said ''the forces which have crossed the Line of Control in Kashmir'' should withdraw to ''where they came from''.
Addressing the media yesterday, US President Bill Clinton's special assistant on national security Bruce Riedel did not share the Pakistani contention that the LoC had not been clearly demarcated.
''We think that the Line of Control has been demarcated over the years. The two parties have not previously had significant differences about where the Line of Control is,'' he added.
He welcomed the proposed talks between External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz, urging them to move forward on three principles: the reaffirmation of the LoC, mutual restraints and intensification of the bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan.
''The urgent step that we need here is to see restraint exercised and a return to the Line of Control,'' he added.
Riedel, who is also senior advisor to the National Security Council for near eastern and south Asian affairs, said Clinton, in his communications with both prime ministers, had stressed that point.
He said the US was concerned over the fighting that had of late been going on in Kashmir. ''We think the best way to resolve this problem is through bilateral discussions between India and Pakistan,'' he added.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, in reply to a question during his briefing, also said the president had been actively involved ''in sending letters to both prime ministers, urging restraint and a return to the spirit of Lahore.''
Riedel said he would not enter the 'blame-game' at this stage. ''I think that it is more useful to focus on what needs to be done to control this situation. There is no question that there are those on both sides who would like to increase tensions.
''I think both prime ministers showed a great deal of political courage when they met together in Lahore and tried to break down the barriers that have for too long divided India and Pakistan.
''We need to get on with the process of increasing people-to-people contacts, increasing trade, increasing openings between the two. Cricket games ought to be the symbol of moving forward, not an opportunity for engaging in blame-games and increasing tensions between the two. We have supported that process,'' he added.
He said the conflict between India and Pakistan had ''many origins and a long and tortured history. It is long past the point where it needs to be resolved by the two parties, directly. We saw an encouraging beginning at Lahore. And I think the urgency now is to get back to that process of direct conversation based upon reaffirmation of the Line of Control and the need for direct communications between the two prime ministers.''
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