U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is in New Delhi, at the start of a South Asian mission that will also take him to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Powell will be discussing anti-terrorism and security issues, and wants to hear more from Pakistan on the nuclear proliferation activities of Abdul Kadeer Khan. Mr. Powell's visit to Pakistan later this week will provide his first opportunity for direct talks with President Pervez Musharraf and other senior officials on the proliferation ring led by A.Q. Khan, which provided nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Mr. Khan, revered as the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, publicly confessed to the activity last month and was pardoned by Mr. Musharraf. But the pardon was conditional on cooperation by the nuclear scientist in determining the scope of the technology leaks.
Speaking to reporters enroute to New Delhi, Mr. Powell said he will be pressing Pakistani authorities for more information on the proliferation network, including the key question of whether past Pakistani governments were involved:
"I will be seeking to learn from President Musharraf and the others I speak to, what else they may have learned about the network that I have not yet been made aware of through normal intelligence channels," he said. "And certainly I will be interested to see whether there is any involvement of past officials, or any official involvement, in any of this over the years. And I think that is something that the government of Pakistan should look into and I think is looking into. And as the international community examines this whole problem of A.Q. Khan, I think the international community would want to see a full answer with respect to his activities."
Mr. Powell's visit to the region coincides with an offensive by U.S.-led forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan against Taleban and al-Qaida elements.
The Secretary said Pakistan has recently undertaken similar security operations on its side of the border, and that the United States would like to see more of it to stabilize the situation in the area, including apprehending known Taleban figures.
Mr. Powell will pay a brief visit to Afghanistan to meet President Hamid Karzai, though details of his South Asia trip are being closely held because of security concerns, underlined by the discovery Monday of a truck bomb near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi.
India-Pakistani tensions have subsided greatly since Mr. Powell's last visit to the region in mid-2002, allowing more focus in talks here on the expanding U.S.-Indian bilateral relationship.
In meetings Tuesday with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha, Mr. Powell will discuss the initial phase of the strategic partnership accord between two countries reached in January.
Under it, the United States will cooperate with India in high-tech areas including space and nuclear energy, while India will tighten controls on exports of sensitive technologies.
They'll also discuss bilateral trade, which increased by nearly 20 per cent last year. Mr. Powell said he will push for liberalization moves by India to help increase U.S. exports and correct a trade imbalance favoring India that has drawn election-year criticism in the United States.