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Obama will 'try to avoid K-word during India trip'

Last updated on: November 2, 2010 11:31 IST

Obama will 'try to avoid K-word during India trip'

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United States President Barack Obama is expected to "try his level best to avoid the K-word -- Kashmir" during his three-day trip to India that starts next week, a newspaper has reported.

"If the topic does come up, Mr Obama will likely follow the same tack taken by his advisers earlier this week in a briefing with reporters," the Wall Street Journal reported.

When asked, "Will the President talk publicly or privately about Kashmir and the tensions between India and Pakistan?" US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes had said, "On this specific trip, again, we have a limited amount of time. We have hard dates in terms of summits that we're attending in Seoul and in Japan.  And we have a very robust programme in India on the front end.  And so he wanted to make sure we have the proper focus on that Pakistan trip when it does take place." 

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Image: US President Barack Obama
Photographs: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
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"The President believes that the US relationship with India and the US relationship with Pakistan does not take place within any kind of zero sum dynamic. It's often been viewed that way in the past, that if we become closer to one it's at the expense of the other," he had said.

"And we have tried to send the signal that it's the opposite with this administration; that, in fact, actually you see that borne out in the fact that we had a very successful strategic dialogue here, with the Pakistanis in town last week, discussing greater security cooperation in governance and economic issues," Rhodes had added.

The newspaper noted that while Rhodes had given a long explanation -- in more than 150 words -- he didn't mention Kashmir.



Image: Kashmiri women hide their faces as a policeman stands guard during a curfew in Srinagar
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters
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Responding to a question on whether Obama would talk privately or publicly about the longstanding Kashmir dispute and the tensions between India and Pakistan during his forthcoming visit to India, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns also avoided the 'K-word' while replying.

"We have always welcomed a dialogue between India and Pakistan and certainly encouraged efforts to improve relations between those two very important countries.  Obviously, the pace, scope and character of that dialogue is something that Indians and Pakistanis have to shape.  But we'll continue to both welcome and encourage it," he said.

Another White House reporter brought up the topic again, using the K-word specifically. "Just to follow Steven's question on Kashmir, will the President be making some public remarks explaining the US position on Kashmir?  And will he also be explaining the US relationship with Pakistan publicly?"



Image: A policeman guards the main gate of the United Nations Military Observer Group during a curfew in Srinagar
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters
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"This time Rhodes was even more eloquent, going for a full 286 words, not a single one of them being Kashmir," the paper pointed out.

It also noted how former British foreign secetary David Miliband came under fire for his remarks on Kashmir during his trip to India last year.

"And when Richard Holbrooke, Mr Obama's special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan at one point suggested he tackle Kashmir too, the idea received a furious rebuff from the Indians," it added.



Image: A Kashmiri protester, wearing a Michael Jackson t-shirt, holds a stone during an anti-India protest in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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