Tags: Bush | Sends | Rumsfeld | Defuse | India | and | Pakistan

Bush Sends Rumsfeld to Defuse India and Pakistan

Thursday, 30 May 2002 12:00 AM

The president said Rumsfeld, who last visited the region in April, would travel to New Delhi and Islamabad next week.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, whose mission was announced earlier by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, is to leave for India and Pakistan this week.

"There is a significant amount of concern, not only in the United States but internationally, about reducing tensions between India and Pakistan," Fleischer said.

"The European Union has sent officials into the area. Jack Straw of Great Britain has just returned from the area. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage will be heading to the area. And then Secretary Rumsfeld will be heading, as well.

"All these visits are part of the international community's ongoing diplomacy to work with India and Pakistan to reduce the tensions in the area and to convince both parties that war does not serve either of their interests."

Fleischer said diplomatic efforts would continue at the highest levels.

"The president is closely monitoring it," he said. "The United States will remain engaged diplomatically at senior levels ... and we'll remain on top of it."

When asked during a news briefing what Rumsfeld would bring, Fleischer replied: "I think he'll be bringing with him ... logic and diplomacy. Often at times like this, nations find themselves in paths that spiral in the wrong direction as a result of the desire to have peace, but events sometimes take a momentum of their own.

"Often at times like this, nations welcome the participation of others to help them find a way out of a dangerous spiral. And that's what he will be doing when he goes on the trip, so too Secretary Armitage," he said.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, with clashes over the disputed Kashmir region continually stoking the fires of conflict.

India has blamed Islamic militants operating from Pakistan for the attacks.

As tensions came to a boil, Pakistan conducted missile tests, further inflaming the region.

Pakistan said Thursday it killed or injured 15 Indian soldiers in a retaliatory artillery attack in Kashmir. India reported killing 12 Pakistani soldiers in the same sector and partial destruction of the headquarters of Pakistan's 15th Northern Light Infantry.

Bush said Thursday the United States was making it "very clear to both Pakistan and India that war will not serve their interests. And we're a part of a international coalition applying pressure to both parties, particularly to President Musharraf.

"He must stop the incursions across the line of control," the de facto border that divides the two countries in Kashmir. "He must do so. He said he would do so.

"We and others are making it clear to him that he must live up to his word," Bush said.

Fleischer later noted that Pakistan "has a robust military force and the ability internally to take action to prevent terrorists from crossing through the line of control."

"It's important," he said, that Pakistan "take the steps necessary to prevent terrorists or would-be terrorists from crossing the line and engaging in terrorist or hostile acts."

Pakistan is a vital U.S. ally in Operation Enduring Freedom, the military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Musharraf has repeatedly pledged to crack down on terrorism in his country, and he has deployed troops in its tribal areas along the Afghan border to help block terrorists.

The White House, reacting to reports that Pakistan was considering transferring troops from the Afghan border area to Kashmir, said the United States was confident it could continue operations in the region.

"There are two important priorities in the region, and one is the continued fight against terrorism, wherever it may be," Fleischer said. "And two is reducing the tensions on the border. Clearly, when tensions are reduced, it means more resources available in the war against terrorism.

"... The president is satisfied that together with our allies, we have sufficient resources to get the job done."

Bush said it would be a mistake for al-Qaeda to assume heightened India-Pakistan tensions would work to their advantage.

"Al-Qaeda ... [will] find weakness. And we are doing everything we can to continue to shore up our efforts on the Pakistani-Afghan border," Bush said Thursday. "And they shouldn't think they're going to gain any advantage as a result of any conflict that may be, or talk of conflict between India and Pakistan, because we're still going to hunt 'em down."

Despite fears of war, including a possible nuclear exchange, U.S. diplomatic missions remain open for business in both countries, the White House said.

U.S. diplomatic dependents and non-essential personnel were withdrawn from Pakistan in March after Islamist terrorists bombed a church.

When asked if special evacuation plans had been drawn up given latest tensions, he replied: "The United States as a matter of routine has plans in place around the world, particularly in areas of the world where there are tensions, to protect American citizens. That's to be expected, and you can assume we have plans in place as well in that area of tension."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The president said Rumsfeld, who last visited the region in April, would travel to New Delhi and Islamabad next week. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, whose mission was announced earlier by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, is to leave for India and Pakistan...
Thursday, 30 May 2002 12:00 AM
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