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    US unwilling to interfere in Kashmir affairs

    Washington: As President Barack Obama prepares to visit India next month, the US has hoped that India and Pakistan can address and resolve the "important" Kashmir issue bilaterally.

    "This is an issue that we hope that the two sides can address and resolve, but this is obviously an important bilateral issue between the two governments," State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters at his daily news briefing. "This is an issue between Pakistan and India. It is important. There have been successful discussions between Pakistan and India on this subject in recent years," he said.

    "Some of those very fruitful discussions occurred between the former governments of India and Pakistan," as he referred to the back channel talks between New Delhi and Islamabad when the two countries, according to media reports, were on the verge of arriving at a negotiated settlement which could not take place due to the fall of the Musharraf regime.

    The Obama administration has been maintaining that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved by India and Pakistan and that it does not intend to interfere. President Obama is slated to undertake the "landmark" visit to India in the first week of November during which he is expected to travel to Mumbai and New Delhi, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders on further upgrading Indo-US strategic ties.

    Meanhwile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations was willing to use its "good offices" in resolving the Kashmir issue if both India and Pakistan sought the assistance of the world body.

    "As far as this role of good offices is concerned, the United Nations normally takes that initiative when requested by both parties concerned," Ban told journalists during his monthly briefing at the UN Headquarters. "India and Pakistan, they are neighbouring countries, important nations in that region - peace and security would have important implications," the UN chief said. Kashmir Valley has been in grip of violent protests since June.

    "I regret the latest loss of life. I have been calling for an immediate end to violence and urge calm and restraint by all concerned," Ban said. "That is the position of the United Nations at this time."

    While India maintains that Kashmir is an internal matter, Pakistan asserts that it is on the UN docket and has been calling for international intervention especially from the United States. Last week, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the UN that Pakistan was sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir, and this later led to a strong exchange of words between the diplomats.

    "Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India, is the target of Pakistan-sponsored militancy and terrorism," Krishna had said.

    On Monday, Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf said his country had trained militants to fight in Kashmir. "They (underground militant groups to fight against India in Kashmir) were indeed formed," Musharraf told German magazine Der Spiegel.

    Reacting to the statement, India said the former Pakistan President's assertion that his country had trained militants to fight in Kashmir only confirms what New Delhi had been repeatedly saying over the years.