ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – A senior American diplomat said the United States wants India and Pakistan to restore a ceasefire in Kashmir to reduce tensions in the disputed Himalayan region.
The statement by Alice Wells, deputy assistant chief chief secretary for South and Central Asia, emerged when Indian and Pakistani troops were confined in fighting almost daily on their de facto Kashmir border, known as the Line of Control.
On Thursday, Islamabad said it had recalled a senior Indian diplomat to the foreign ministry to protest the alleged violation of a ceasefire by Indian military forces that resulted in new civilian casualties in Pakistan’s ruled part of Kashmir.
Increasing hostility between rival nuclear weapons nations over the past year has led to a mutually beneficial Kashmir ceasefire in 2003 and raised fears that tensions could escalate into a wider conflict between Pakistan and India. Countries have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, which remain a major source of regional tension. Both India and Pakistan claim this territory entirely.
“We certainly support practical steps that India and Pakistan can take to reduce tensions such as restoring the 2003 Line of Control truce while continuing to pressure Pakistan to take credible steps to dismantle terrorist groups,” Wells said at a seminar Wednesday via a video link hosted by the Atlantic Council based in Washington.
For its part, India has accused Pakistani forces of violating a ceasefire to help militants try to infiltrate India-Kashmir to incite separatist violence there, a charge denied by Islamabad.
Wells noted in his speech that “the broader and healthier involvement” of the Trump administration with Pakistan has prompted South Asian nations to take “constructive” steps to fight regional terrorism.
“I welcome the important statement issued by Prime Minister Khan, that there is no role for non-state actors, that anyone who crosses the border into Kashmir is an enemy of Pakistan and an enemy of Kashmir,” the American diplomat said.
Wells praised the prosecution and belief of a recent Islamic cleric in Pakistan who was accused of masterminding the 2008 deadly attack in Mumbai. Washington has offered a $ 10 million prize to bring the cleric, Hafiz Saeed, to justice, although he has denied the allegations.
“I don’t call these steps irreversible, but they are important steps,” Wells said. He also noted the economic rules recently imposed by Pakistani officials to fight money laundering and curb terrorist funding to groups involved in cross-border terrorism.
Traditionally strained relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated since last August when New Delhi unilaterally revoked the autonomy of the Indian-run part of Kashmir and imposed tight security lockouts, coupled with a blockade of communication in Muslim-majority countries to prevent dissent. The restrictions have since been partially relaxed.
Islamabad rejects the move, saying Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute based on UN Security Council resolutions and no party can unilaterally change status. India has denied the criticism, describing actions related to Kashmir as an internal problem.
Peace and FATF Afghanistan
Wells also praised Pakistan’s “important” role in facilitating US efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, the longest in America, and promote political reconciliation between the Taliban insurgency and other Afghan groups.
This role is believed to have given Pakistan important support from Washington in global financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, in order to borrow funds that are urgently needed for the country’s struggling economy.
Pakistani officials said US support also played a role in securing much-needed assistance from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog on money laundering and terrorist financing.
The FATF has put Pakistan on the watch list of countries with weak regulations to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. This requires Islamabad to complete all tasks in the proposed action plan to avoid being blacklisted by the FATF, which would make international business transactions almost impossible for Pakistan.
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