US should join bid for Kashmir solution: Pakistan envoy

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The United States could play a key role in allaying Pakistan's fears about its neighbour India by getting involved in a solution to the Kashmir dispute, a senior Pakistani diplomat said on Friday.

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Zamir Akram, said attempts by India and Pakistan to negotiate a settlement were derailed after 2006 by Hindu or Muslim "extremist" groups in each country.

"Unfortunately the momentum has been lost," he told journalists.

When asked what single short-term gesture could help allay Pakistan's concerns about the strategic intentions of its neighbour, Akram said: "Something that Mr Obama promised when he was a candidate for president but abandoned when he became president, that is, facilitate the solution to the Kashmir dispute."

"That's the gesture that the administration itself said it wanted to take and they should follow up on it," he added.

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari was due to hold talks with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday, while Obama has promised to visit Pakistan this year.

Akram suggested that the West has been too intent on securing relations with its ally India to forge a bulwark against China -- an ally of Pakistan -- in Asia.

He pointed out that Pakistan's concerns about its bigger neighbour stretch from nuclear weapons to energy supply, a strategic build-up in the region, and a fear of being surrounded to the west and east by neighbours with which it has tensions, Afghanistan and India.

India's top home ministry official said Friday that Indian security forces would be reduced by a quarter in restive Kashmir after a two decade insurgency.

Rival nuclear weapons states India and Pakistan each hold part of Kashmir but claim the Himalayan region in full.

Overall militant violence in the region has declined since India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004.

But the Indian-ruled part of Kashmir has been rocked by massive protests against New Delhi's rule since June 2010, leaving some 111 protesters and bystanders dead.

© 2011 AFP

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