Kashmir ‘probably’ was discussed during Kerry’s India visit

WASHINGTON: The United States “stands strongly” in favour of an elected government in Pakistan but also backs people’s right to assemble peacefully, says the US State Department.

At a news briefing in Washington, the department’s spokesperson Marie Harf noted that “some marches” were being held in Pakistan on the Independence Day but refused to get involved in a discussion over the issues involved.

“We don’t have any position on the planned marches,” said the US official when asked to comment on the marchers’ claim that the present government came to power through rigged elections and should step down.

But “we obviously, stand strongly in favour of a democratically-elected civilian government, [and] also the position of individual rights, including people to assemble peacefully,” she added.

Responding to a question about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India, Ms Harf said that Kashmir “probably” was among the issues discussed in his meetings with Indian officials and promised to give more details later.

India refuses to discuss Kashmir with other nations, saying that this was an issue that it prefers to discuss directly with Pakistan.

Reminded that Pakistan has rejected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that it was running a proxy war in Kashmir, Ms Harf said: “We’ve seen these comments. We continue to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan, and we would welcome any and all positive steps that the two sides could take.”

Pakistan has said that India’s allegations go against the spirit of recent moves towards resumption of dialogue between the two countries and urged India to avoid mud-slinging.

When a journalist observed that India and Pakistan were celebrating their independence this week with renewed tensions on the border, the US official urged both nations to take “all positive steps” that would “strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation”.