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US Official Urges India, Pakistan to Ease Tensions - 2002-05-15

U.S. Undersecretary of State Christina Rocca says she urged both India and Pakistan to ease tensions and resolve disputes through negotiations, during her two day peace mission to both South Asian countries. The senior U.S. official spoke to reporters in Islamabad, before departing.

Ms. Rocca's visit to the region was aimed at preventing any escalation in military tensions that have raised fears of a fourth war between India and Pakistan. She held extensive discussions on the issue with leaders in both the countries.

At a news conference in Islamabad, the Undersecretary of State said a dialogue between India and Pakistan is the only way to avert confrontation in the region.

"I think this is a major focus of U.S. government policy and we continue to work the issue. We are working with both sides to try to defuse tension and ultimately no conflict gets resolved without dialogue in the end. So we continue to push for dialogue," she said.

Ms. Rocca says the Untied States remains hopeful that it will be able to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan. But she gave no indication her visit has helped move the two countries away from a possible confrontation.

"I don't think I have any thing brand new to tell you that I could talk about in any public forum. But I think we are going to continue work the issue," she said. "It's of major importance to our government and it's one that we are not going to give up."

Pakistan has said it is willing to open talks with India. Officials in New Delhi maintain that Islamabad must stop the infiltration of Islamic militants into Indian Kashmir before relations are normalized.

Tensions between the two countries have been running high since December, when suspected Islamic militants carried out an attack on India's parliament. Officials in Islamabad deny Indian allegations that Pakistan was behind it. Both sides have deployed large numbers of extra troops along their tense border.

A deadly attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir on Tuesday has renewed the friction. Indian leaders blame Pakistan and have vowed to retaliate for the attack, which left at least 30 people dead. Pakistan's Information Minister Nisar Memon has denied the allegations. He has also advised India against any military action.

"We hope that such a thing they will not venture because Pakistan is ready and our forces are ready to defend every inch of Pakistan," he said.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have now equipped their armies with nuclear weapons