Kashmir solution lies within: Obama

President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama, who indicated soon after his election in 2008 that he was considering appointing former President Bill Clinton to mediate the Kashmir dispute, now says that the disputes between India and Pakistan can only be resolved by the two countries themselves.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency, the US leader welcomed the Indo-Pak dialogue process, saying “it is not the place of any nation, including the United States, to try to impose solutions from the outside.“That said, nations must meet their responsibilities and all of us have a profound interest in a Pakistan that is stable, prosperous and democratic,” the president was quoted as saying.According to PTI, the US leader was responding to a question on the current state of Indo-Pak relations and the best way forward for the two countries to resolve outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Obama said a rapprochement between the two South Asian neighbours would benefit the region and the world at large.“President (Asif Ali) Zardari’s visit to India was encouraging. Increased trade and people-to-people contacts between Indians and Pakistanis can lead to greater prosperity and understanding on both sides,” he said.“Efforts in New Delhi and Islamabad to improve relations give hope for further progress, including a possible visit to Pakistan by Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh,” he added in the interview.

Over the years, as India emerged as an economic power and tensions crept into US relations with Pakistan, Obama has been leaning towards New Delhi. He even endorsed India, which has a dismal record in implementing UN resolutions, as a permanent member of the Security Council.During the interview, Obama said, “India will be critical to Afghanistan’s future.” India’s generous contributions have helped Delhi to train Afghan police, promote development and improve the lives of the Afghan people, he said.

India was the first nation to forge a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, and India’s civil service can be a model as Afghans strengthen their own governance and institutions, he said.Obama said by hosting the recent conference on private investment in Afghanistan, India has shown a readiness to help the conflict-hit country’s economic development.On the future of international engagement in Afghanistan and roadmap for that country, Obama said as a result of this spring’s NATO Summit in Chicago, there was a clear path to bringing the Afghan war to a responsible end.

Next year, in mid-2013, Afghan forces would take the lead for combat operations and coalition forces would have shifted from combat to support across the country and their troops would continue to come home, the US President said.“By the end of 2014, the transition to Afghan lead for security will be complete so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country.

“After 2014, NATO will continue to train, advise, assist and support Afghan forces as they grow stronger. Likewise, the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the US signed with Afghanistan, as well as our designation of Afghanistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally, makes it clear that we will not abandon that country, or the region, to terrorists who threaten us as well,” he said, according to the news agency.