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Pentagon Chief: India-Pak Tension 'Unhelpful' - 2002-01-17

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calls military tensions between India and Pakistan "unhelpful." His comment came after a meeting with India's visiting defense minister, George Fernandes.

Mr. Fernandes tells reporters at the Pentagon he believes the dispute between India and Pakistan is now on its way to resolution. "I have reasons to believe that sooner or later these issues will now be on the way to resolution," he said.

The Indian defense minister gives no elaboration. But his upbeat comment follows a speech by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf condemning terrorists like those who recently attacked India's Parliament.

India has blamed the bloody attack on Pakistan-based militants fighting its rule in disputed Kashmir. Now, close to one million soldiers are massed on the India-Pakistan border in the biggest military buildup by the two countries in more than half a century.

Mr. Rumsfeld says continued tensions along the frontier between the two nuclear powers is unhelpful. "I do not believe it is in either of their interests to stay for a long period at a high state of mobilization. I think the tension is unhelpful to them, unhelpful to the world and I am hopeful that the leadership of those two countries will continue on the path they seem to be on to attempt to find ways, either directly or indirectly, to discuss these matters," he said.

The Pentagon is concerned about the impact of the continued tensions on the U.S. led anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. Mr. Rumsfeld does not want to see Pakistani troops shifted away from the border with Afghanistan where they have been hunting al-Qaida and Taleban fugitives.

U.S. defense officials also fear continued tensions could affect American use of bases in Pakistan in connection with the Afghan operation.