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Daschle: India, Pakistan Standoff Highlights New Opportunity for Dialogue - 2002-01-15

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has said only dialogue can reduce the threat of war between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir dispute. Mr. Daschle is in Pakistan leading a delegation of American lawmakers on a fact-finding mission to the region.

Senator Daschle said the current military standoff between India and Pakistan has made the Kashmir issue more prominent worldwide.

Mr. Daschle spoke after meeting with President General Musharraf in the Pakistani capital.

"I think there is a new opportunity for dialogue among the Kashmiris, the Indian people, and certainly the people of Pakistan. We need to capture this opportunity, we need to take advantage and sieze the moment, and find ways with which to move this peace process along. But it must happen through dialogue to reduce the level of tension between the countries," he said.

Mr. Daschle has said the United States is grateful for the reforms General Musharraf announced Saturday, and for his determination to rid Pakistan of terrorism in all its forms. In a landmark speech, the Pakistani leader banned five extremist religious groups and vowed to rein in Islamic militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

Senator Daschle has said Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is due to arrive Wednesday in Islamabad, will call on both India and Pakistan to defuse the tension and begin dialogue. He has said Secretary Powell will focus on the need for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute.

"The message has to be a good-faith effort to resolve these differences and to reduce the degree of confrontation that potentially could exist if this is not resolved satisfactorily. We are hopeful that the U.S. Secretary's presence and in particular the Pakistan President's speech will contribute to that goal," he said.

Senator Daschle also thanked Pakistan for its support for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign and promised a review of trade relations and other bilateral contacts, including military cooperation.