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Analysts Hopeful About US Diplomatic Visits to Pakistan, India - 2002-06-06

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is visiting Pakistan and India in an effort to defuse the military confrontation between South Asia's two nuclear neighbors. Some Indian analysts say tensions between the two countries have eased in recent days and the time might be right for diplomatic efforts to succeed.

Richard Armitage's diplomatic mission to Islamabad and New Delhi - followed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit next week - are just the latest in a string of visits by senior western officials to the region.

Indian officials say they welcome the diplomatic efforts, but there will be no talks with Pakistan until they see signs in Kashmir that "cross-border infiltration" of militants has stopped. Pakistan says infiltration has stopped and it is time for talks to begin.

Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi's Center for Policy Research says Indian officials believe U.S. officials appreciate their tough stand with Pakistan because both countries have common concerns about terrorism.

"When you ask these Islamic terrorists who your enemies are they always name three countries; The United States, India, and Israel," he said. "The United States always figures as the number one enemy, India and Israel tend to change places depending on which group you are talking to. So it is U.S. interests as well as in Indian interests to ensure that there is no terrorism emanating from Pakistan."

Indian officials have proposed joint monitoring with Pakistan of the "line of control" in Kashmir as a way out of the crisis. Islamabad has responded by saying the proposal will not work if international observers are not included something India has always rejected.

Indian Navy Commodore Uday Bhaskar, is the deputy director of New Delhi's Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. He says he believes the proposal will be a topic of discussion between Mr. Armitage and officials in both capitals.

"It seems fairly neat. Pakistan says it will not provide support to terrorists," he said. "The Pakistan military has been told they should disengage. If that is the case, any terrorist or infiltrator that is coming across the 'line of control' is on his own. If the Pakistan military monitors their side to make sure nobody is getting through and the Indian military is on this side of the LOC picking up the guys who do manage to infiltrate I say we have them in a pincer. So it looks from an armchair analyst point of view, but we also have to see what kind of political will Pakistan is willing to bring to bear on this particular issue."

The last time a senior U.S. diplomat visited New Delhi, on May 14, suspected separatist militants attacked an army camp in Indian-administered Kashmir - killing more than 30 people, mostly women and children.

Commodore Bhaskar and other Indian analysts say although diplomatic efforts have eased tensions in recent days, everything could change if Islamic militants attack during the Armitage or Rumsfeld missions.