Washington’s stance on Kashmir unchanged, assures McCainBy Kamran Yousaf The Express Tribune July 3, 2017

ISLAMABAD, July 3: Former presidential candidate and veteran congressman Senator John McCain on Sunday made it clear that there was no change in the United States policy on the longstanding Kashmir dispute, stressing the need for an end to the current unrest in disputed Himalayan region.

McCain, the Chairman Senate Armed Services Committee, is leading a delegation of US senators including Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator David Perdue and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to Pakistan for talks with civil and military authorities on a host of issues covering bilateral ties, current regional and international situation.

The US delegation is visiting Islamabad against the backdrop of recent visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington.

During Modi’s visit, the US and India signed new defence deals as well as urged Pakistan not to allow its soil to be used against other countries.

In order to appease New Delhi, the Trump administration also declared prominent Kashmir leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist. Pakistan reacted sharply to the development and termed the decision of equating Kashmir freedom struggle with terrorism as unfair.

The joint statement issued after the Trump-Modi visit gave the impression as if the US has decided to depart from its traditional position on Kashmir.

Washington has long considered Kashmir as a dispute between Pakistan and India and in the past avoided taking sides while urging the two nuclear-armed neighbours to resolve the issue bilaterally.

After holding talks with Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz here at the foreign office, Senator McCain told the state-run PTV that there was no change in the US policy on Kashmir dispute.
He said the United States wanted to see an end to the violence in the disputed region and also believed that resolution to the longstanding problem could only be found through dialogue.

After Modi’s visit, there have been concerns that Pakistan might lose its strategic importance in the eyes of the United States.

However, during the meeting between Sartaj Aziz and US delegation, it was evident that Pakistan still remains relevant for Washington for the regional peace and stability.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said Senator McCain, thanking the adviser on behalf of the delegation, appreciated the contributions and sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.

He said that continued engagement with Pakistan, a close friend and ally of the US, was important.

The Senators also praised the economic turnaround, as manifested by investors’ interest and confidence in Pakistan.

The two sides agreed with the need for the US and Pakistan to forge closer cooperation in confronting the peace and security challenges in the region and beyond.

Senator McCain, who frequently visits this part of the region, has always advocated strong and deep cooperation with Pakistan. Last year after visiting Islamabad, he wrote an article in The Financial Times warned that ignoring Pakistan would be dangerous.

McCain argued that without Pakistan’s cooperation, the US mission in Afghanistan would become “immeasurably more difficult”.

According to the Foreign Office, the adviser underscored the significance of the longstanding cooperation between the two countries and the need to make this partnership diverse and multidimensional.

Pakistan and US strategic partnership, he said, was critical to achieve peace and stability in the region and beyond.

Sartaj also apprised the US Senate delegation, comprising of very prominent Senators from both Democratic and Republican parties, about Pakistan’s success in combating terrorism through Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad and informed that the terrorist networks have been dismantled, their sanctuaries eliminated under the overarching National Action Plan.

The dividend of these policies, he stressed was empirically verifiable.

The adviser said that Pakistan remained committed to support efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Adviser noted that QCG process remains a credible and effective vehicle to facilitate reconciliation and restore peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

Pakistan looked forward to constructive engagement with the United States on all efforts and initiatives that would lead to a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan was also ready to strengthen and deepen its partnership with the US to counter the new and emerging terrorism threats including the expanding footprint of Da’ish in the region.

The adviser also raised concern over the gross human rights violations by the Indian security forces in Kashmir and international community’s silence over the reign of terror unleashed by India on innocent and unarmed Kashmiris.

He stressed that Pakistan firmly believed in the legitimacy of the Kashmir cause and the peaceful struggle of the Kashmiri people to claim the right to self-determination promised to them by the international community through the UN Security Council resolutions.

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