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US Envoy Optimistic About India-Pakistan Peace Moves - 2003-05-08


Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is in Pakistan, saying the United States hopes recent peace moves between India and Pakistan will lead to further dialogue for the nuclear rivals.

Mr. Armitage said he is encouraged by the diplomatic moves thawing relations between India and Pakistan. The Deputy Secretary of State spoke to reporters at the end of talks with Pakistani leaders.

"I would pronounce myself as cautiously optimistic at the beginning of what might be a very good process," he said. "There seems to be a certain confidence in Pakistan, a certain confidence in India, about the ability to address all aspects of the relationship, and I think that is a very good basis on which to move forward."

Mr. Armitage dismissed suggestions the United States is pressuring India and Pakistan.

"It is not the position of the United States government to pressure Pakistan or to pressure India," said Mr. Armitage. "If we can be helpful in bringing about a dialogue, then that is a good thing. But my discussions here today will be faithfully carried over to our Indian friends, and of course they will respond in their own way."

Much of the friction between Pakistan and India is over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is predominantly Muslim and has been the cause of two wars.

New Delhi is accusing Islamabad of sending Islamic separatists from its part of Kashmir to fuel an insurgency in Indian Kashmir. India is demanding the infiltration stops before it will start high-level talks. India also alleges Pakistan is training insurgents.

Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf gave him assurances that no such activity is taking place in Pakistani Kashmir.

"The infiltration, the cross-border violence… are down but that does not fill me with great enthusiasm because suffering is a cause for concern of us all," he emphasized. "President Musharraf gave me absolute assurance that there was nothing happening across the Line of Control [the disputed border in Kashmir] and if there were [terrorist] camps in Azad Kashmir [Pakistan Kashmir], they would be gone tomorrow."

Mr. Armitage is in the region to encourage India and Pakistan to keep moving towards peace talks. Last year, tensions between the two nations went to the brink of war.

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