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India, Pakistan can resolve Kashmir issue without outside help: Norway PM

NEW DELHI

Norway on Monday said that India and Pakistan could resolve the issue of Kashmir between themselves, and “without help from outside.”

“Both India and Pakistan are big enough countries…They can decrease tension between them without help from outside,” Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg remarked while referring to Kashmir in New Delhi on Monday.

In an interview to NDTV, Solberg said the Kashmir problem cannot be solved from a military standpoint and popular support was important.

“I don’t think there is a military solution to any situation like this. I think you have to have a popular support. You have to have good trust between the partners in any region where still there is a conflict but we don’t have a special meaning about whether it is a military solution in Kashmir or not. What we have learnt is that you have to bring in popular support and by getting women and youth into a peace process and that’s when you build a solid peace in an area where there have been a conflict.”

When asked if her country saw any role for mediation between India and Pakistan, Solberg said, “If there is an interest from the partners, we will try to use the mechanisms that we know. We have been working quite a lot in different countries but we always have this one basic thinking. The partners need to want to sit down by the table and discuss. Then of course if there is a need for a mediator, a need for a facilitator to fix, even though these are two very big countries that should manage to sort out things between themselves.”

She said that the controversial visit of former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik to Kashmir was in his “private” capacity.

“When it comes to his visit, he went as a private citizen. He has an institute for peace and security. It is a private institute in Norway. He was invited. Our government’s policy is clear — if we are going to help someone, they have to ask for it,” she said.

“He was invited and he wanted to see if there were some possibilities of helping out but there was no official mission and he was not on a mission from the Norwegian government,” Solberg told NDTV.

She also said India and Pakistan should be talking more to each other and should decrease military expenditure “because we need more money for other areas to boost development – on health, education, but I think that means that you have to try to decrease tension between countries. After such a long time. It’s a long time since 1947.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had denied Indian government’s role in organising the visit and meetings of Bondevik to Jammu and Kashmir in November last year.

Bondevik had paid a ‘surprise’ visit to the state and met top separatist leaders including Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who briefed him about the “fragile” political situation in Kashmir and the need for a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Bodevik had also visited the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir Muzaffarabad, and discussed the “latest situation” in Jammu and Kashmir with the PaK president Sardar Masood Khan.

Bondevik had also said that international community is interested in Kashmir and that he was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan over the long-pending dispute.

The Norwegian prime minister is currently on a three-day visit to India from January 7 to 9. She is slated to deliver the inaugural address at the Raisina Dialogue.

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