The State Department says Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has reiterated a pledge to the United States to permanently halt the infiltration of Muslim militants across the "line of control" into Indian Kashmir. Interview remarks by the Pakistani leader seeming to pull back from that stand prompted a telephone call to Mr. Musharraf from Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday.
Both U.S. and Indian officials had reacted with concern to interview remarks by President Musharraf over the weekend in which he appeared to retreat from a promise to the United States to end the infiltrations once-and-for-all.
In comments to Newsweek magazine and its sister publication, the Washington Post, Mr. Musharraf was quoted as saying that, while he had told the United States the infiltration had ceased, he could not give an assurance that quiet would prevail along the boundary for a matter of years.
He was also said to have told the interviewer that the issue of closing down militant training camps on Pakistan's side of the Kashmir line had not come up when Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with him in Islamabad earlier this month.
At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Pakistani leader had made the no-infiltration pledge repeatedly to U.S. officials from President Bush on down in recent weeks, and that he reaffirmed it once more when Mr. Powell called him Sunday to ask about the interview comments. President Musharraf reiterated his commitment to the Secretary in a telephone call yesterday, and again meetings with our charge [d'affaires] in Islamabad," said Mr. Boucher. "So it's a commitment that's been made very clear. And President Musharraf has made very clear to us that he stands by it."
Mr. Boucher said the United States has no reason to disbelieve Mr. Musharraf since it has seen positive results from the pledge in terms of reduced activity along the Kashmir dividing line.
He further said there have been "significant positive steps" by India that have helped to ease the South Asian crisis, but that there is more Pakistan can do. He said action to close militant training camps in Pakistani Kashmir would be an "important follow-up" to keep the process moving.
For its part, Mr. Boucher said the United States will continue to work with both sides to ease tensions over Kashmir and facilitate dialogue.
The spokesman said the interview was only one of several issues that the Secretary raised in his call to Mr. Musharraf. Officials here say the Bush administration is continuing to press both South Asian powers to scale back what is considered the biggest military buildup along their borders in more than 30 years.