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Armitage: Musharraf Open to Dialog on Kashmir - 2002-06-08

A senior U.S. envoy said he expects India and Pakistan will soon take steps to lower tensions over Kashmir. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage commented in Estonia after wrapping up talks in New Delhi and Islamabad.

Richard Armitage ended his diplomatic mission to South Asia with assurances from Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf that he can and will end cross border raids by Muslim militants into Indian controlled Kashmir. He also gained promises from India it will take steps to ease months of increased tension between the two nuclear armed nations.

"Well, I was on the airplane for the last 10 and a half hours but I understand they're talking about some diplomatic actions which could include a return of some people to their diplomatic postings in Islamabad and some ratcheting down of some sort of military tensions," Mr. Armitage said.

Shelling and shooting have been continuing across the line of control and on Saturday, Pakistan said it shot down an unmanned Indian spy plane.

"President Musharraf was quite categorical about the fact that the activities across the line of control would be stopped permanently and he is quite keen, President Musharraf, in entering into a dialogue on the whole question of Kashmir," Mr. Armitage said.

He stopped in Estonia to brief Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who is here for meetings with Baltic defense ministers - but is spending a good deal of his time receiving intelligence briefings on the situation in South Asia.

Mr. Rumsfeld himself will head to India and Pakistan next week, another attempt by a top U.S. official to prevent the countries from going to war over the long disputed Kashmir region.