NEW YORK, Mar 04 (APP): A key American senator has underscored the need for the United States to “find a pathway forward” to deal with the unresolved Kashmir dispute that generates tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
“I do believe that it is important for the United States to play a role to find a pathway forward between two nuclear states and two states that are important to us in the region, especially as we deal with China,” Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in response to reporters’ questions about the prevailing tensions between the two South Asian neighbours.
“First of all,” he said, “I’m glad to see the recent border ceasefire pledge between Pakistan and India was agreed to, but obviously a lot of work remains.”
Senator Menendez spoke to reporters after attending a virtual ‘meet-and-greet’ event organized by the American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC), an active advocacy group which is headed by Dr Ijaz Ahmad.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s chairman was specifically asked by APP correspondent whether the Biden administration would resume US’ mediatory role and appoint a special envoy to promote a settlement of the UN-recognized Kashmir dispute.
“After years of absence from the region, the US needs to re-engage with Pakistan in many different dimensions,” Senator Menendez said, pointing out that after Ambassador David Hale left Islamabad in 2018 to take up the post of Under-Secretary of State in Washington, no US envoy to Pakistan has been appointed.
And then, he said the US also need to engage with India “more robustly”.
But, the senator said he wasn’t sure whether a special envoy would be necessary as the “necessary ingredient”. That was because, he added, when an Assistant Secretary of State for the South Asian region was appointed at the still-vacant post, that person could play that role in the shuttle diplomacy that may be necessary between both countries.
Pressed on this issue, Senator Menendez added, “If the administration believes that a special envoy would be necessary to achieve it (a resolution of the Kashmir dispute), I certainly would be supportive of it.”
He said he looked forward to Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointing Assistant Secretary of State and also an ambassador to Pakistan, adding “we will also use our role as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to highlight the situation in Kashmir, as well as to press the administration to raise these questions on a government-to-government levels.”
The senator said during his last visit to India, he had raised “very tough questions” about the Citizens (Amendment) Act that targets Muslims. He said he followed up with a letter to then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on CAA as well as what was happening in Kashmir.
More recently, he said he raised these issue with the Indian Ambassador to the United States.