U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says while tensions between India and Pakistan have eased, it is now up to India to decide whether Pakistan has done enough to end terrorism in Kashmir and begin a dialogue with Islamabad.
Secretary Powell says he believes the leaders of India and Pakistan are open to dialogue and cooperation and the United States is ready to assist both countries. Mr. Powell's comments came at a news conference with India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh following talks in New Delhi.
India's foreign minister says his government welcomed pledges from Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, not to allow Pakistan to be used as a base for terrorism in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir, but New Delhi is not ready to talk until violence de-escalates in Kashmir. "I wish the statements and the announcements that General Pervez Musharraf has made really do translate themselves into action, because that will, in terms of the management of external affairs, contribute greatly to the benefit of the international community in its fight against terrorism," he said. "As soon as we see a demonstration of it on the ground we will respond adequately and fully be assured of that."
Secretary Powell says he fully understands and supports India's position. He says he believes General Musharraf is making progress on his stated goals of ending terrorism and extremism in the region, but it is up to India to decide if it wants to talk to Pakistan. "We have seen some action with respect to the extremists, we have seen action with respect to the banning of organizations, we have seen a variety of other actions take place with respect to the closing down of the offices of these organizations," said Colin Powell. "And it is up to India to make a judgment as a sovereign democratic nation as to whether these actions constitute sufficient basis for them to change the policies that they are pursuing at the moment."
Tensions between the two countries escalated after terrorists attacked India's parliament on December 13. India says the attack was carried out by two Pakistan-based militant Kashmir separatist groups that Islamabad has now banned.
New Delhi has welcomed the ban but says Islamabad must also hand over about 20 suspected criminals and terrorists living in Pakistan. Secretary Powell says India will be providing Pakistan with more evidence about the suspects. He says General Musharraf might be willing to turn over non-Pakistani's on the list and put Pakistani nationals on the list on trial.
Secretary Powell's comments came after an historic visit to Afghanistan the first by a U.S. secretary of state in a quarter-century. Mr. Powell met with Afghanistan's interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and pledged the U.S. will make a substantial financial commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan at a donor conference he will attend next week in Tokyo.