- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell flew yesterday to South Asia to try to defuse a crisis between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, which have massed 800,000 troops along their explosive border.
His first stop was today in Islamabad, where he was to urge the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to complete a crackdown on extremists that would satisfy India's demand for an end to terrorist attacks.
"The last thing we want to see happen right now in South Asia is a war between these two nuclear-armed states," Mr. Powell said on CNN before his departure.
An Indian intelligence source said the infiltration of Islamic militants from Pakistan into Indian-held portions of Kashmir showed no signs that it had slowed or halted.
"It will take time," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We hope we'll see it slowing in a few days."
Mr. Powell also stops in India, Afghanistan and at a Tokyo meeting of donors to Afghanistan before returning home Monday.
Apart from the obvious danger of a nuclear war in South Asia, the confrontation was disrupting the U.S.-led war on terrorism by pulling Pakistani troops away from the Afghan border, where they were deployed to pursue fleeing Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
"The purpose of the trip is not to negotiate an approach to Kashmir. It is simply to try to defuse the crisis between India and Pakistan," said an administration official who asked not to be identified.
"You still have two armies essentially squared off against each other. The goal of the secretary's diplomacy is to try to get the sides to do things that will lead to a military de-escalation."
Mr. Powell so far had refused to ask India, which was first to mobilize troops, to pull back its army from the border, even though Pakistan had promised to respond in kind.
Speaking to reporters aboard his plane yesterday, Mr. Powell said: "It's more important to make sure that the political and diplomatic situation is stabilized. When that is stabilized, the armies can move back in due course."
Mr. Powell praised Gen. Musharraf for arresting hundreds of extremists and shutting the offices of extremist groups since a national address on Saturday.
"He spoke out against all forms of terrorism, and he spoke out against terrorism emanating from anywhere in Pakistan or under Pakistan control," Mr. Powell said.
"I think we have stabilized things right now to the point where we can continue working the diplomatic and political track and persuade everyone that that is the direction we should continue to move."
India yesterday continued to question the sincerity of Gen. Musharraf's promises to halt terrorism, calling for action rather than words.
"We're awaiting first steps," Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in New Delhi. He renewed demands for 20 "criminals and terrorists" India wanted for extradition from Pakistan, including Kashmiri rebels and Indian mobsters accused of bombing Bombay's financial district in 1993.
"Our aim is straightforward. We want these people back," Mr. Singh said.
But Mr. Powell said Pakistan's leader "is taking action. He has banned terrorist organizations, he is arresting people, and the Indians have taken note of all of this."

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