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India-Pakistan Tensions Reduced, Says Rumsfeld - 2002-06-13

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says that India and Pakistan have made some progress towards easing border tensions in recent days. Mr. Rumsfeld made the statement at the end of a trip to India and Pakistan.

After his talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters that India and Pakistan must try to settle their differences through dialogue. He urged the two countries to halt border clashes that Mr. Rumsfeld says are causing mostly civilian casualties.

"It seems to me as unfortunate for two neighbors and one would hope that the people involved on all sides would decide that that is not the appropriate method of dialogue," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld says India's decision to recall warships deployed near Pakistani waters and lifting a ban on Pakistani civilian planes flying over Indian territory have contributed to the reduction of some tensions.

Addressing the same news conference, Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said the threat of war would remain unless India withdraws its forces from the border.

"The President has said that we welcome the steps, however marginal, that India has taken, which have had a certain marginal impact," Mr. Sattar said. "But there is no change whatsoever in the capability of the Indian forces massed on our borders and the Line of Control [dividing Kashmir]. Therefore there is no real reduction in the threat [of war].

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that President Musharraf's determination to stop separatist militants from crossing into Indian Kashmir has helped reduce tensions with India.

Clarifying a statement he made earlier, Mr. Rumsfeld says there is no direct evidence al-Qaida is operating in Kashmir, but is confident that Pakistan will deal with terrorists found anywhere in that region. Wednesday, he said there were indications the terrorist group may be operating in Kashmir.