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The Rediff Interview/Richard Armitage
No US roadmap for Kashmir: Armitage
May 09, 2003
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says he is 'cautiously optimistic' that a process is beginning to resolve India and Pakistan's dispute over Kashmir in a peaceful manner.
He believes recent initiatives by both India and Pakistan have created 'the elements of a discussion' and 'all credit should be given to the two parties'.
Armitage, in Pakistan as part of a visit to South Asia, spoke with GEO-TV at the US ambassador's residence in Islamabad on May 8.
Following are excerpts from the transcript of the interview.
First of all, we would like to know the aims and objectives of your visit.
First of all, it's to sort of set things for President Musharraf's visit to Washington, and to discuss the next steps in our bilateral relationship, a relationship which we are both proud of and very desirous of extending. Secondarily, it's to discuss the regional situation and, of course, the new developments with India. And, third, to discuss some aspects of Pakistan's chairmanship of the UN Security Council.
How was your meeting with President Musharraf?
It lasted 90 minutes, and I was very delighted; we covered an awful lot of ground.
And have you discussed the recent peace initiatives by India and Pakistan?
Well, of course. We discussed both Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali's call to Delhi and Prime Minister's Vajpayee's far-reaching statement in Srinagar.
Recently, US gave a roadmap for the solution to the Palestine problem. Do you have a roadmap for the solution of the Kashmir problem?
No. We've often said that this is a problem to be solved by the two parties and by a dialogue between the two parties. If we can be helpful in setting an atmosphere for that, then we're delighted to do so.
Your comment on a statement made by many people in Pakistan, outside Pakistan, of a solution to the Kashmir problem by 2004.
I don't know who said that. This has been a problem that has been around since Partition and we would love a solution as soon as possible. But I don't think putting any artificial time frame on it is beneficial, and I don't know who made that statement.
Some ministers in Pakistan, Karl Inderfurth, many people.
Said it would be resolved by 2004?
Well, I notice they're not directly involved in these discussions. The parties themselves will resolve it; they'll determine the timetable -- not any American.
Do we need fresh UN resolutions on Kashmir?
I don't know if new resolutions on Kashmir would be particularly helpful. I think the elements of a discussion have been entered into by India and Pakistan with the recent initiatives, and I'm cautiously optimistic that we may be seeing the beginning of a process.
Do you think the Line of Control can become a permanent border between India and Pakistan?
This is a question for the parties themselves to decide, and that's long been our position.
A London Times story says that Richard Armitage is playing the role of a firefighter between India and Pakistan. Would you like to comment?
Well, I'm the son of a policeman, actually. I have very little affiliation with firefighters. And I don't think that's my role. I think my role right now is to develop to the farthest possible extent the US-Pakistan bi-lateral relationship, and I'm trying my best to do that.
Some people are saying you played a very important behind-the-scenes role in the recent peace initiatives by India and Pakistan.
All credit should be given to the two parties. Those who are quickest to claim credit are probably the least deserving of it. The two parties themselves are the ones who deserve the credit.
Are you satisfied by the steps taken by Prime Minister Jamali for normalising relations between India and Pakistan?
I don't like the way you ask the question about whether an American is satisfied. The question would be whether Pakistani citizens are satisfied and whether the Indian government is satisfied that these are conducive to a reaction from their part. For my part, I am cautiously optimistic that we're seeing the beginning of a process.
What transpired during your meeting with (Indian National Security Adviser) Brajesh Mishra in London?
Well, I had a very interesting hour-and-a-half long lunch with Mishra, where we discussed not only his upcoming trip to Washington, but the general state of US-Indian and Indo-Pak relations.
Will you tell us something about your meeting with the ISI chief in Washington?
I've had the honour of meeting General Ehsan several times, and I was most desirous of seeing him during his recent Washington visit. We discussed certainly the situation in Afghanistan, the situation in India, and I also described for him some of our activities in Iraq and the latest information that we were receiving from Iraq.
And are you satisfied with the role of Pakistan against Al Qaeda and Taliban?
Pakistan has been absolutely magnificent. Brave law enforcement personnel, brave military personnel, who, in my view, do great credit to this nation.
There are reports in some US and Indian newspapers to the role of the ISI. What do you think?
It is for Pakistanis to decide if they are satisfied with the role. This is an organisation, which has been very important to Pakistan historically. It has been peopled by very excellent officers and enlisted men. I've had excellent relations over more than 20 years with the ISI.
Is this organisation these days helpful for you?
It's helpful for the nation of Pakistan. It's not helpful for the United States; certainly the ISI is not working for us, but many times, in their duties for Pakistan, we find that Pakistan's interest and the United States' interests coincide. Therefore, it is helpful to us.
What do you think about the latest situation in Afghanistan? Some people say Osama bin Laden is still alive.
I don't know if he's alive or not, but the situation in Afghanistan is a difficult and complex one. One of the reasons I'm going to travel to Kabul is to make a dramatic demonstration of the fact that the United States can do two things at the same time. We can be involved in Iraq very heavily; we can be involved in Afghanistan very heavily, and for the long-term, and that's what I'm going to try to impress upon President Hamid Karzai and his colleagues.
Some days ago, there was a big demonstration against America in Kabul. Who do you think is organising these kinds of anti-American demonstrations inside Kabul?
My understanding is that there was a demonstration some days ago in Kabul. It was much smaller than you perhaps indicate, and it was primarily related to making sure that those people who demonstrated received their pay. I have no doubt that the situation is being corrected. I don't know who's organising it, but they're probably dissatisfied people who haven't gotten paid.
Some people, especially American newspapers, are saying that Iran is still interfering in Iraq and maybe the US will be forced to do something against Iran. Would you like to comment?
Clearly Iran has interest in, particularly, the southern part of Iraq. How she presents her interests, is of great interest to us. Iran is not on any list of the US; no one is suggesting any use of military force on Iran. The US secretary of defense has said so, the secretary of state has said so. We'll continue our activities in Iraq. We're doing those things transparently; we wish no harm to anyone else. We just want to see an Iraq which has a very bright future for the 24 million citizens who live there.
And what about the role of Syria?
Syria is in a very difficult position. I think that the geopolitical landscape changed for Damascus very quickly with the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. There's now only one Baath Party, for instance. US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently traveled to Damascus to let our Syrian friends know about the new geostrategic situation and indicate to Syria that they have to make a choice whether they want to take part in the community of nations in a helpful way, to stop any activities that might support Saddam Hussein's fleeing officials, etc, get away from weapons of mass destruction, close down terrorist operations. We'll see if Syria paid attention to those comments of Secretary Powell.
Do you have any indication whether Saddam is alive or not?
I don't know if he's alive or if his sons are alive or not. I know one thing for sure: he's not in power and every day that passes, the people gain more and more confidence that that terrible regime is in the dustbin of history.