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Powell:  India and Pakistan Committed to Political Solution - 2002-01-20

Relations between India and Pakistan remain tense, but the situation is improving, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr. Powell says both sides appear committed to reach a diplomatic solution.

The Secretary of State says he does not want to downplay the situation. He says there are tensions. But he quickly adds there is also a will to resolve the dispute and pull back from the brink of war. "I think things have improved a little bit in the last week," he said. "I am encouraged that both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee are committed to finding a political and diplomatic solution."

Mr. Powell told the Fox News Sunday television program that his just-ended visit to the region convinced him that both sides want peace. He made specific mention of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's vow to crack down on extremists, noting the Indians were particularly impressed.

All the same, the secretary of state cautioned relations will not improve overnight. "It is going to take some time before sufficient confidence has been built up between the two sides before the troops start moving back," he said. "But the more important thing, I think, is that a political decision has been made to let us find a diplomatic solution and not let our finger be on the trigger of this loaded gun that we now see at the border."

Mr. Powell spoke from Tokyo, where he is attending a conference of countries that will provide aid to Afghanistan. He visited Islamabad, New Delhi, Kabul and Nepal before heading to Japan.