U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, wrapping up a diplomatic mission to India and Pakistan, says he believes tensions are down between the two countries, but the risk of war remains.
Mr. Armitage said he told India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, that he believes Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is serious about putting a permanent end to cross-border infiltration of militants into Indian-administered Kashmir.
Mr. Armitage said he told Mr. Vajpayee President Musharraf wants to avoid war at all costs. The U.S. diplomat said he believes India too wants to avoid war, but it will not waver from its stated goal of seeing an end to the cross-border infiltration of separatist militants into Indian-administered Kashmir.
"The government of India, I think, is also intent on, if possible, to avoid war," he said. "They do want terrorism to stop, and in this regard, we share a view with the government of India."
Indian officials say their proposal for joint monitoring by India and Pakistan of the "line of control" that divides Kashmir is the key to ending the crisis. Pakistan says international monitors should do the job, something India rejects.
Mr. Armitage says no decisions have been made with regard to the proposals from either side.
Both countries have massed an estimated one-million troops along the border, and there is heavy cross-border firing on an almost daily basis at various points along the "line of control" in Kashmir.
Mr. Armitage says he felt during his visit to Islamabad on Thursday that tensions were easing, and he was encouraged by his reception in New Delhi. Still, he says, the risk of war remains.
"Where tensions are high and troops face each other, there is always the risk of war. And, until that situation is changed, there will always be the risk. But at the present time, we are just trying to manage things and bring down the tension and the temperature a little bit, so that people of good will on both sides of this question can live prosperous lives," he said.
Richard Armitage is the latest of a number of high-level Western officials to visit Islamabad and New Delhi in an effort to pull the two countries back from the brink of war. Next week, the diplomatic pressure continues, when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to visit both countries.