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Rumsfeld: India, Pakistan Dispute Stabilized - 2002-06-11

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has arrived in India to begin talks there and in neighboring Pakistan aimed at defusing tensions over the disputed Kashmir region. Mr. Rumsfeld says he believes the situation in South Asia has stabilized over the past few days.

As he made his way to India, Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters he believes tensions between India and Pakistan no longer appear to be escalating and there have been some hopeful signs that the conflict over Kashmir has leveled off. "It is not getting worse," he said, "and that is a good thing."

On Monday India announced it would allow commercial Pakistani airliners to resume flights over its territory, a move which India said was intended to acknowledge the steps Pakistan has taken to calm the crisis.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters on the way here he is not coming to the region as a mediator but is, rather, bringing proposals to take up with both sides. "We certainly have things we can discuss with them and that they have been discussing, he continued, "and I look forward to meeting them."

And, he praised Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf for taking steps to put an end to cross-border attacks by Muslim militants into Indian-controlled Kashmir, a situation that has pushed the two nuclear-armed nations to the brink of war. Mr. Rumsfeld said, "He has made a very firm commitment to do everything he can do to prevent infiltration across the line of control permanently."

Still, he suggested the crisis in South Asia is far from over, noting that the risks of miscalculation remain and that Muslim militants who have their own interests are still capable of creating an incident which could inflame tensions on both sides again.