- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday reported reduced tensions between India and Pakistan after a weekend of South Asia diplomacy that yielded little in the way of concrete results.
"Thanks to the efforts of the international community, but especially the parties themselves, tensions have been reduced," he told reporters after flying to Islamabad from New Delhi.
"Both sides have reaffirmed their desire for a peaceful political solution to the problems that exist. We must continue down this path."
He said the United States looks to India "to take further de-escalatory action, as Pakistan makes good on its pledges" to stop the infiltration of Islamic militants across the Line of Control into Indian-administered territory in Kashmir. An uprising by Muslim militants in Kashmir has left 60,000 people dead since 1989.
President Pervez Musharraf promised early last month to end the infiltrations, easing the threat of an immediate war, but India says they stopped only briefly and have since resumed. Monitoring is difficult because of the mountainous terrain.
Mr. Powell said Gen. Musharaff had told him during his current visit that he had stopped the infiltrations.
"Obviously the Indians have a different view," Mr. Powell said. "Everybody agrees that it has gone down some say significantly, some say it's only temporary and not yet significant."
Mr. Powell, who flew afterward to Thailand for talks with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said the United States was monitoring the border carefully. The Bush administration is not yet ready to say the infiltrations have stopped completely, "although they have been down."
Gen. Musharraf has renewed his pledge to seal off the border, he said, "and we'll be watching closely to see that is actually happening on the ground."
Pakistan wants the United States to put pressure on New Delhi to open a dialogue on the 55-year-old dispute over Kashmir.
Mr. Powell said it was time to work toward a permanent peace in South Asia.
"Kashmir is on the international agenda," he said. "The United States will extend a helping hand to all sides so that they can achieve" a peaceful resolution to the dispute.
If the cross-border infiltrations are reduced to a point where it is clear to impartial observers that only a few renegades are getting through the mountainous terrain, "then it would be easier for both sides to decide it is time to begin the dialogue," he said.
He said he believed that Gen. Musharraf was keeping his pledge, but that the Indians need more time to be satisfied that the change is permanent. But New Delhi may be willing to enter a dialogue without having the infiltration end completely, he said.
The two sides have massed more than 1 million troops along their border, while an estimated 100 nuclear missiles are believed to be pointed at targets on either side, raising the prospect of a nuclear war breaking out accidentally.
India made two conciliatory gestures to Pakistan last month following visits by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and has reportedly pulled back three strike divisions from the border.
Pakistan dismissed India's announcement that it was withdrawing its warships from positions in the Indian Ocean, saying New Delhi was making a virtue out of necessity since rough seas during the monsoon season would have forced it to recall the ships to base in any case.
Islamabad has also spurned New Delhi's offer to let Pakistani civilian planes overfly Indian territory.
If Mr. Powell has been unable to get the two countries to immediately advance down the path of de-escalation, two other recent mediators did even worse.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and European Union foreign and security policy commissioner Javier Solana ended visits to the subcontinent in recent days with nothing to show for their efforts.
Mr. Solana denied he was playing the role of mediator, while Mr. Straw was snubbed by both Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Gen. Musharraf, neither of whom found time to meet him during his stops in their capitals.
Treated to lunch with Gen. Musharraf shortly after his arrival, Mr. Powell got a better reception.
The United States has just pledged $1 billion in development aid to Pakistan and is holding talks on arms sales to Islamabad. The release of warplanes that Pakistan paid for long ago but never received is also being discussed.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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