Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed South Asian issues, including the elections in India, Wednesday with Pakistan's foreign minister, Kursheed Mahmoud Kasuri. Both agreed they do not think the change in government in New Delhi will derail the peace process between India and Pakistan.
Though India's incoming new government led by the Congress Party has not yet officially taken office, both Mr. Powell and his Pakistani counterpart are speaking approvingly of its initial policy statements, including a commitment to continue South Asian peace efforts.
At a joint news conference with Mr. Powell, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr. Kasuri, said his government is committed to the peace process on the subcontinent and that there is every sign that the new Indian leadership is as well.
"The Secretary felt, and I agree with him, that in view of the good work that's already been done, and the good vibes that are coming from the new government, even before it's been formed by leaders of the would-be government, we both agreed that these were positive signals and that we need to continue with that," he said. "We'll, I'm certain, and on behalf of the government of Pakistan, I can say that the government of Pakistan is committed to continuing with the peace process and look forward to the government of India doing the same."
Secretary Powell, who last visited Pakistan and India in March, played the lead role in U.S. efforts to ease tensions between the two South Asian powers, which nearly flared into full-scale hostilities in 2002.
He said has no concern that political change in India will alter either the U.S.-Indian relationship or the regional peace process that has accelerated since the visit to Pakistan in January by outgoing Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"Our message to the new Indian leadership is that we look forward to working with them," he said. "We have a solid agenda with the Indian people, covering all aspects of our bilateral relationship. And we see no reason why that agenda should not continue to be pursued with the new government. I think, as the minister said a minute ago, the activities between India and Pakistan -- the road map that they have been following - seems to still be very much intact, and we expect that both sides will continue to walk down that path."
The Secretary said that in the course of a "very successful" meeting with Mr. Kasuri, he expressed appreciation for Pakistan's collaborative efforts with the United States in the war on terrorism.
He said that includes a need to continue cooperation against members of the al-Qaida terrorist group and Taleban remnants, who he said continue to "drift back and forth" across the Pakistani-Afghan border.
Mr. Powell said he and Mr. Kasuri also discussed how to resolve the cases of Pakistanis still held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the nuclear proliferation ring, exposed in February, of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.