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Powell: Kashmir Dispute Remains Dangerous - 2003-04-10


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington will remain engaged in efforts to ease tensions between India and Pakistan. But Mr. Powell says there are no parallels between the situation in South Asia and Iraq.

Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha has reportedly said that there is a stronger case for preemptive strikes against Pakistan than Iraq. But in an interview with Pakistan's state-run television Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell has dismissed these suggestions.

"We do have a very difficult situation and a dangerous situation with respect to actions across the "Line of Control" (cease-fire line in Kashmir)," he said. "But we don't believe that there is a need now for any military action of any kind. We are looking to help the two parties resole this in a peaceful way. But I don't think that there is a direct parallel to the two situations."

India accuses Pakistan of sending armed militants to carry out terrorist acts in the Indian part of Kashmir. The two South Asian nations have fought two wars over the divided region and their soldiers routinely exchange fire across the Kashmir border, widely known as the military line of control.

India's allegations of cross-border terrorism have increased border tensions in recent years, and only intense international diplomacy averted another war last year.

Secretary Powell says he stays in very close contact with leaders in India and Pakistan because the United States wants to be friend to both countries.

"I think with both of these great nations on the subcontinent, the United States can have strong and improving relations and through those relations with both countries we can serve to help both countries try to begin a dialogue with each other on outstanding issues," he said.

Mr. Powell also praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's cooperation with the U.S. led military coalition to root out terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

"The cooperation we have seen over the last 18 months or so has allowed us to bring down the Taleban, has allowed the coalition to break the holds that al-Qaida had in that country, and has given hope to the people of Afghanistan that they can live under a new government that is committed the welfare of its people, that it too wants to live in peace with its neighbors," he said.

Secretary Powell hopes that, as a result of Pakistan's close cooperation in the anti-terrorism efforts, political and economic relations between Islamabad and Washington will further improve.

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