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Powell Will Travel to India, Pakistan - 2002-07-09

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he plans to visit India and Pakistan later this month in a further U.S. effort to ease tensions between the two South Asian powers. He told Senators Tuesday he will try to get a dialogue going but that it is up to the parties themselves to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Though the military crisis between the two sides that erupted in May has subsided, the Bush administration remains concerned about the situation and engaged with the parties.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Powell said he had spoken by telephone with Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff Monday and with India's new foreign minister Yashwant Sinha the day before.

He said he will visit the region before the end of the month to continue the effort to keep tensions over Kashmir from "boiling over," and to make clear to both countries that U.S. interests in the area transcend the immediate problems.

"What we are trying to do now is to make sure that both the Indians and the Pakistanis understand that the United States is interested in them beyond this crisis," he said. "We want a good relationship with India on every aspect of that relationship, economics, trade, military cooperation. Same thing with Pakistan. And we are anxious to get through this crisis and see a dialogue begin between the two sides so that we can start to move forward to find a solution to the problem of Kashmir ultimately. They have to find a solution."

The Bush administration, which sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to India and Pakistan last month, obtained a pledge from President Musharraf to end the infiltration of Muslim militants across the "line of control" into Indian Kashmir.

India initially acknowledged a reduction of movement across the boundary, though Indian Foreign Minister Sinha said last week the activity had increased again and had returned to the levels that prevailed in May.

Mr. Powell, who last visited India and Pakistan in January, gave no dates for his upcoming South Asia mission, but officials here say it will likely precede his planned appearance at an ASEAN regional forum in Brunei July 30.