Accessibility links

Powell:  India, Pakistan Situation 'Dangerous' - 2002-01-04

The Bush administration may soon dispatch an envoy to try to help reduce hostility between India and Pakistan.

The administration has been relying on telephone diplomacy by President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to try ease tensions in South Asia.

But Secretary Powell, warning that the situation remains "very dangerous," said Friday he will decide shortly whether to step up peace efforts by sending an envoy.

The United States has been appealing for Indian restraint in the wake of the December 13 suicide attack on the parliament in New Delhi that India blames on Pakistan-based Kashmiri militants.

It has pressed Pakistan to crack down on the extremists, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has backed up his pledges to combat terrorism with strong action.

"So we've seen action, we expect to continue to see action from him in terms of moving against militant groups, because fundamentally we think he's made the strategic decisions after September 11 to move against terrorism and violence," Mr. Boucher said. "And second of all he's fundamentally made the strategic decision to move Pakistan towards a more moderate course. That presents opportunities, and obviously we want to see him pursue that."

Mr. Boucher said that while the Musharraf government has not outlawed the two groups implicated by India in the parliament raid, it has arrested their leaders and a large number of their members and closed their offices which, he said, goes "fairly far into making it impossible for them to operate."

A decision on an envoy will be made after the weekend summit of South Asian leaders in Katmandu, at which it is hoped here Mr. Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will hold a reconciliation meeting.

Officials here draw a distinction between a mission to help defuse the current crisis, and a U.S. effort to mediate the long-running dispute over Kashmir, which they say will not be attempted because of Indian opposition.

They say obvious candidates for the immediate mission include Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the State Department's director for policy planning Richard Haass.

The department's chief counter-terrorism official Francis Taylor is already scheduled to visit both South Asian powers next week.