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Zardari compares Kashmir with Palestine

January 28, 2009 16:27 IST
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Notwithstanding the Obama Administration's assertion that Kashmir is not in the mandate of Richard Holbrooke, President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday hoped the Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan will work towards a 'just and reasonable' solution to the issue.

'We hope that the special envoy (Holbrooke) will work with India and Pakistan not only to bring a just and reasonable resolution to the issues of Kashmir and Jammu but also to address critical economic and environmental concerns,' Zardari wrote in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post in which he compared Kashmir with Palestine.

The Pakistan President's statement comes a day after the US State Department categorically clarified that Kashmir is not in the mandate of Holbrooke.

'Well, it's not in his (Holbrook's) mandate to deal with the subject of Kashmir. His mandate is to go out and try to help bring stability to Afghanistan, working closely with Pakistan to try to deal with the situation in the Federally-Administered Tribal Area,' State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters yesterday in response to a query.

Zardari, in his opinion piece, said that Holbrooke, with his experience, 'surely understands that peace in our region can be secured only by addressing long-term and neglected problems'.

'Much as the Palestinian issue remains the core obstacle to peace in the Middle East, the question of Kashmir must be addressed in some meaningful way to bring stability to this region,' he said.

Whereas Holbrooke has been designated as Special US Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zardari has identified him as a special envoy for Southwest Asia.

'Appointing the seasoned diplomat Richard Holbrooke says much about the (US) President's world view and his understanding of the complexities of peace and stability and the threats of extremism and terrorism. Simply put, we must move beyond rhetoric and tackle the hard problems,' Zardari said.

Whereas, the Obama Administration has de-linked, as was the policy of the Bush Administration, India from Afghan-Pak imbroglio, Zardari has tried to include New Delhi as a party to it.

'Pakistan has repeatedly been identified as the most critical external problem facing the new Administration. The situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India is indeed critical, but its severity actually presents an opportunity for aggressive and innovative action,' the Pakistan President said.

Since the end of the 'Musharraf dictatorship', Pakistan has worked to confront the challenges of a young democracy facing an active insurgency, within the context of aninternational economic crisis, Zardari said.

'Ambassador Holbrooke will soon discover that Pakistan is far more than a rhetorical partner in the fight against extremism. Unlike in the 1980s, we are surrogates for no one. With all due respect, we need no lectures on our commitment. This is our war. It is our children and wives who are dying,' Zardari said.

As the Special Representative is soon expected to visit the region, he said: 'Ambassador Holbrooke will encounter a region of interrelated issues crossing borders -- old problems that have been left to fester, new realities in an era of active terrorism, and the residual consequences of past Western support for dictatorships and disregard for economic and social development. Let's delineate them.'
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