U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will visit India and Pakistan next week on a trip that underscores the Bush administration's concerns over the mounting tensions between the two South Asian countries.
Speaking to reporters just a short time after his trip was announced by President Bush, Mr. Rumsfeld was reluctant to discuss the message he intends to deliver to Indian and Pakistani leaders.
But the defense secretary made clear the United States is deeply concerned about rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
"There is no question that I would not be going on this visit were we not concerned about the situation between the two countries," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld described the disagreements between India and Pakistan as substantial. But he refused to accept suggestions that war is inevitable.
As for the thousands of American citizens in both countries, Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged there are contingency plans for their evacuation. But he said no decisions have been made to actually carry out any evacuations, including the removal of U.S. troops currently in Pakistan in connection with ongoing anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan.
In recent days, Pentagon officials have voiced concern those operations could be affected if Pakistan moves troops now deployed along the Afghan border. Mr. Rumsfeld said Thursday there has been no change in Pakistani border deployments so far, and he remains hopeful there will be none.
In Afghanistan itself, defense officials have disclosed that most of the more than 50 people detained in a recent raid near Kandahar were neither Taleban nor al-Qaida fighters. But they say five men are still being held, at least one of whom has been identified as a Taleban official.