Rezaul H Laskar in New Delhi
India on Thursday said US President George W Bush's comments on promoting freedom and tolerance "from Kosovo to Kashmir" did not reflect a change in Washington's declared position of not mediating in the Kashmir issue.
External affairs ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said New Delhi's most recent contacts with the Bush administration - including US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca's discussions with senior government leaders this week - had indicated that "the US is not taking a position on the agenda of discussions between India and Pakistan."
Bush, addressing US troops in Kosovo on Tuesday, had said Washington would work with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to promote freedom and tolerance "from Kosovo to Kashmir, from the Middle East to Northern Ireland."
His comments, describing freedom and tolerance as "defining issues for our world," came even as Rocca was on a three-day visit to New Delhi for high-level discussions with Indian leaders, including External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh.
"It is not necessary that their views (on the Kashmir issue) coincide with ours," said Rao. "We have, however, emphasised our stand in the matter on every available occasion."
"During her visit to New Delhi, Rocca clarified that the US is not taking a position on the agenda of discussions between India and Pakistan or involving itself in India-Pakistan negotiations unless asked to by both sides," she said.
India and the US, she said, shared the belief that tensions in South Asia must be resolved by countries of the region through peaceful means.
"The US government has reiterated its position that dialogue between India and Pakistan is the best way to make real progress towards a reduction in tensions and peaceful resolution of differences."
Rao emphasised that Rocca's discussions with Indian leaders had not reflected any change in the US position on Kashmir.
Indo-Asian News Service
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