Accessibility links

Rumsfeld: Pakistani-Indian Tensions Easing Slowly - 2002-06-13

As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld concluded his peace mission to India and Pakistan, he commented that there are indications that tensions between the two countries are easing.

After his talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters that India and Pakistan must try to settle their disputes through direct dialogue. Mr. Rumsfeld stressed that both sides need to communicate with each other, warning there is a limit to what international diplomacy can achieve.

"There is no magic wand in this world," he said, "In the last analysis, people, countries, sort out their own problems. They can do it with some help, and goodness knows that help is available, but problems get sorted out on the ground."

Secretary Rumsfeld urged both India and Pakistan to halt almost daily border clashes that he says are causing mostly civilian casualties, saying, "It seems to me as unfortunate for two neighbors, and one would hope that the people involved on all sides would decide that that is not the appropriate method of dialogue."

Mr. Rumsfeld says India's decision to recall warships deployed near Pakistan and lifting a ban on Pakistani civilian planes flying over Indian territory have contributed to the reduction of some tensions. He also praised President Musharraf's determination to stop separatist militants from crossing into Indian Kashmir.

Addressing the same news conference, Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said Washington needs to do more to defuse tensions over Kashmir. Mr. Sattar says the threat of war would remain unless India withdraws its forces from the border.

"The President has said that we welcome the steps, however marginal, that India has taken, which have had a certain marginal impact," Mr. Sattar said. "There is [still] no change whatsoever in the capability of the Indian forces massed on our borders and the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Therefore, there is no real reduction in the threat of war."

Secretary Rumsfeld appeared to play down comments he made in India on Wednesday that members of al-Qaida might be present in the Pakistani part of Kashmir. He says the United States does not have direct evidence the terrorist group is operating in the region.

"It tends to be speculative - it is not actionable, it is not verifiable," he said. "The cooperation between the United States and Pakistan on the subject of al-Qaida is so close, and so intimate and so cooperative that, if there happened to be any actionable intelligence as to al-Qaida anywhere in this country, there is not a doubt in my mind Pakistan would go find them and deal with them."

Pakistan dismissed Mr. Rumsfeld's statement in New Delhi as Indian propaganda to undermine what it calls a "freedom struggle" in Indian Kashmir.