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Rumsfeld Begins Visit to India, Pakistan


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld begins a visit to India and Pakistan, continuing a series of high-level visits by western envoys intent on pulling India and Pakistan back from the brink of war.

Senior Indian officials say they are eager to talk with Mr. Rumsfeld about the status of cross-border infiltration along the line of control that divides Kashmir.

India says it is seeing a drop-off in the number of militants crossing from Pakistan territory. Pakistan says all infiltration has stopped and denies actively supporting the militants.

India Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Nirupama Rao says Mr. Rumsfeld will meet with all of India's senior leaders, including Prime Minister Vajpayee. "I believe the visit is important, "It will help us not only continue our consultations, not only the growing defense relationship between India and the United States, but I believe it will also help us sensitize the U.S. administration further about the situation on the ground, along the 'line of control' and about the evolving situation in our relationship with Pakistan," she said.

Tensions are easing between India and Pakistan, following weeks of harsh rhetoric and threats of war. Monday, India announced it is lifting restrictions on Pakistan civilian aircraft flying over India. Meanwhile, India's Navy says it is drawing down its considerable presence in the Arabian Sea.

Navy Commander Rahul Gupta says much of the western fleet should be back at its home base in Bombay by Wednesday. "Ships of the western fleet, which were on patrol in different areas of the northern Arabian Sea, have been recalled to their base, as per government decisions," he said.

Navy officials will not say how many ships are involved. There are dozens of ships in the western fleet. An additional five warships of the eastern fleet that had been moved to the Arabian Sea will also return to port.

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