- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

India-Pakistan tension

Tension is so high along the border between India and Pakistan that the smallest provocation could set off a full-scale war, the U.S. ambassador to India warned yesterday.

"The present crisis is dangerous," Ambassador Robert Blackwill said in a speech in the Indian capital New Delhi. "With the two militaries mobilized and forward-deployed, a spark could ignite a conflict."

The two nuclear powers have had stationed 800,000 troops along the border since an attack in December on the Indian Parliament, which India blames on Pakistani terrorists. The South Asian rivals have fought three wars since Pakistan was created in a division of India in 1947. They also have clashed countless times over the disputed Kashmir region.

On Monday, India refused to resume talks with Pakistan, complaining that Pakistan had failed to track down those responsible for the attack on Parliament.

Mr. Blackwill recognized Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for responding to the attack by outlawing five militant groups and arresting 2,000 suspected extremists but warned he must do more.

"We think that President Musharraf has embarked on a courageous and profound redefinition of his nation's policies, both domestic and foreign. In our view, he has already made substantial progress," Mr. Blackwill said.

However, he added, the "infiltration of terrorists into India is unacceptable and must end."

Indonesia's 'tough job'

Indonesia is doing more than its critics realize in the fight against terrorism and development of democracy, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia said yesterday.

Ambassador Ralph Boyce said Indonesia is working behind the scenes with U.S. intelligence to track terrorists in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

"There is an awful lot of information-sharing, intelligence-sharing, working cooperatively, regionally … that is not necessarily going to get that sort of public scrutiny, nor should it if it's going to be effectively conducted," he said in an interview with Reuters news agency.

Mr. Boyce's supportive remarks are his latest attempt to defend the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Last week, he expressed satisfaction with Indonesia's response to terrorism after Frank Lavin, the U.S. ambassador to neighboring Singapore, criticized Indonesia for failing to crack down on suspected terrorists.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy in Washington welcomed Mr. Boyce's comments.

"He is a friend of Indonesia," said Iwan Susanto.

Mr. Boyce yesterday said Mrs. Megawati knows she has a "tough, big job" in an archipelago of 13,500 islands with 210 million people and scattered ethnic violence.

"Let's not forget she was one of the first significant visitors to Washington only six days after September 11," he said.

"The stated policy of the government of Indonesia … is to join with us to eradicate global terrorism, and we welcome it."

Mr. Boyce also said Indonesia is working hard to establish a democracy after 32 years of ruthless dictatorship.

"If you are constantly taking snapshots of Indonesia, and you add to that a tendency to focus on the negative where bad things are happening, then naturally you will come up with a rather pessimistic view of the overall situation," he said.

"They have passed some very rocky shoals with more success than I think they get credit for."

He noted progress on civil rights, the creation of a professional military and the development of a capitalist economy.

"They've come a long way in that direction and have a long way still to go on all of those points," Mr. Boyce said. "But again, considering where they started from and considering the possibilities, I have to look at the positive side of the ledger."

Butler to Macedonia

President Bush has selected Lawrence Butler, a career diplomat, to serve as ambassador to Macedonia.

Mr. Butler currently is deputy chief of mission in Denmark and has served on the National Security Council as deputy senior director for European affairs.

He also has served in the U.S. embassies in Brazil, Bulgaria and Finland.

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