|May 16, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—PAKISTAN’S FOREIGN MINISTER INVITES FALEOMAVAEGA TO VISIT KASHMIR|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced that he met yesterday with Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri,
Pakistan’s third highest ranking government official. The Honorable
Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Ambassador of Pakistan, also attended the meeting
held in Faleomavaega’s Washington office.
“The Foreign Minister and Ambassador of Pakistan requested a meeting with me to discuss a recent amendment I introduced during the mark-up of the U.S. State Department bill in the House Committee on International Relations on May 7, 2003,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “The amendment calls for the U.S. State Department to prepare and submit to the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations a report that contains a description of the extent to which the government of Pakistan has closed all known terrorist training camps, has established serious and identifiable measures to prohibit the infiltration of Islamic extremists across the Line of Control (LoC) into India, and has ceased the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, including any associated technologies to any third country or terrorist organization.”
“The House Committee on International Relations, which is made up of 49 members, passed my amendment by voice vote without any objections. I believe this means that both Republicans and Democrats share a concern about the rising tensions in the Asia Pacific region. Although we are deeply appreciative of Pakistan’s assistance in helping the United States fight the war against terrorism, there continues to be questions raised about the threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism in South Asia.”
“There also continues to be concern about the growing tensions regarding Kashmir. Kashmir is one of the most important issues that must be resolved in order to establish peace in the Asia Pacific region,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir in the past 50 years and came very close to the brink of nuclear war less than two years ago. In December of 2001, both countries amassed nearly one million soldiers along their common border and had the U.S. not intervened it was feared that India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir could have led to the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.”
“As the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and as the only Asia Pacific American serving on both the Subcommittee and the full Committee on International Relations, I am deeply concerned about cross-border terrorism and the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Asia Pacific region. Any threat to regional stability puts our soldiers at risk and some have argued that this situation may become as dangerous as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the Congressman said.
“This is why I introduced an amendment which requires the State Department to report to Congress about the progress that is being made to resolve the India-Pakistan dispute. The dispute over Kashmir has been on-going since 1947 when India and Pakistan gained their independence from Britain and more than 500 principalities were allowed to choose to accede to India or Pakistan. Whether or not Kashmir would accede to Pakistan or India was left unresolved and in 1948 the United Nations established a military Line of Control (LoC) which now divides the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-held Azad Kashmir.”
“India has not crossed the LoC since 1972,” Faleomavaega said. “On the other hand, since September 11th 2001, Islamic militants from Pakistan have crossed the LoC and claimed the lives of innocent men, women and children – not once, not twice, but three times, committing egregious acts of cross-border terrorism on each and every occasion. Since 1989, more than 60,000 men, women and children have died in the Kashmir dispute.”
“Although I believe we are fortunate that neither country has yet resorted to the use of nuclear weapons to resolve this on-going conflict, we should be very concerned that both Pakistan and India test fired short-range ballistic missiles on March 26 of this year which incidentally (or not) was the same day that the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that Pakistan and China will enhance their defense ties.”
“Given the seriousness of this situation, I am pleased that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister called upon me to discuss these most important matters. Minister Kasuri assured me that Pakistan is willing to talk anytime, anyplace, anywhere to resolve the Kashmir dispute. The Foreign Minister also invited me to visit Pakistan and Kashmir and I have accepted his invitation,” Faleomavaega said.
“By the same token, I informed Foreign Minister Kasuri and Ambassador Qazi that I would welcome information from the government of Pakistan which addresses the concerns I have about the transfer of nuclear technology to any third country or terrorist organization. It is my understanding that those documents will be forthcoming and I believe this will be a first step in establishing a more open dialogue with both parties.”
“As I said to the Foreign Minister, my intent is not to be one-sided. Like every other Member of Congress, my intent is to foster peace. Again, as the only Asia Pacific American on the House International Relations Committee, I am deeply concerned about the rising tensions in the Asia Pacific Region and I am fully committed to doing everything I can to foster peace for the sake of generations to come,” the Congressman said.
“At this time, I want to thank Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, the Honorable Khurshid Kasuri, and Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi for making the effort to discuss these issues and for being open to further dialogue. In turn, I am hopeful that India will also be open to dialogue with Pakistan. Just as I cannot turn a blind eye to cross-border terrorism, I also cannot turn a blind eye to India’s alleged human rights violations in Kashmir or to its transfer of nuclear technology to Iraq.”
“Although I deeply regret that India and Pakistan are now separated by social and political differences, the irony of this on-going dispute is that the people of India and Pakistan share the same ethnicity. As I shared with the Foreign Minister, some anthropologists even suggest that Samoans descend from the Punjab tribes of Pakistan and India. Whatever the case may be, it is unfortunate that two nations that share common blood are now divided by competing ideologies that threaten regional stability and world peace.”
“Despite these circumstances, I
am hopeful that further dialogue will be encouraged. I am also hopeful
that as a result of this amendment, more attention will be focused on bringing
about a peaceful resolution to a serious situation that continues to threaten
the peace of the Asia Pacific region,” the Congressman concluded.
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