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    US praises India

    US Official Praises India Kashmir Clash Strategy
    Full Coverage
    Kashmir Conflict

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India averted an escalation of the Kashmir conflict by putting long-term diplomatic gains before military expediency, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

    ``It looks as though we have passed the moment when things could have spiraled out of control,'' said the official, who asked not to be identified.

    He said ``thoughtful Indians'' had realized that the army and air force's restraint at the Line of Control that divides the disputed Himalayan province was winning international respect.

    Pressure mounted on the government during the two-month-long clash to sanction a dash across the cease-fire line into Pakistani-held territory and choke off supply routes sustaining hundreds of infiltrators in mountains on the Indian side.

    ``It was certainly logical military thinking,'' the official told reporters. ``At that time we thought it was 50-50 whether India would cross the line.''

    ``But it became clear with time that the prime minister had a vision of how to conduct this. And the short-term military gain was outweighed by the long-term diplomatic gain.''

    The military operations chiefs of India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over Kashmir, agreed at the weekend on a withdrawal of the forces this week.

    New Delhi says most of the fighters were Pakistani soldiers, and several Western powers rejected Islamabad's stand that they were Kashmiri freedom fighters.

    Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to ensure a withdrawal of the infiltrators during a meeting with President Clinton in Washington.

    His main defense against charges of a U-turn was a pledge by Clinton to take a ``personal interest'' in seeing real discussions between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. India has long rejected Pakistan's call for third-party mediation in the dispute.

    But the U.S. official said Washington did not ``try to intrude'' in the crisis and described Clinton's ``interest'' as nothing new.

    ``The president's interest has been there for a long time. He was describing a historical reality,'' he said, adding Clinton intended to visit South Asia, possibly before the year-end.

    ``What's clear is that we don't see ourselves as mediators. There's enough baggage in the dialogue between the principals. We may end up putting more pressure...on the process.''

    He said that after their ``very severe dust-up'' it was going to be tough for India and Pakistan to return to negotiations.

    He noted both sides had expressed a willingness to resume the peace process, but domestic hurdles in India such as elections in September and the need for trust to be re-established may mean the pace would be deliberate rather than rapid.

    The official said India's openness, restraint and steadiness during the crisis had ``given us a glimpse'' of how U.S.-India relations could develop.

    However, he said he would caution U.S. policy makers against expecting too much because of India's residual sensitivity to its ties with Western powers and its ambivalence over the role of the United States.



      There are two ways to look at it. the pacific command looks at India as potential ally against China and Central command looks at Pakistan as potential ally against Iran. If pro-democracy movement succeeds in Iran, Pakistan will become unimportant to US.