- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

President Bush urged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday to stop incursions into India's portion of the disputed Kashmir region and announced that he would send Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the area next week in an effort to pull the two nations back from the brink of war.
Aiming at a new U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush called on the Pakistani president to make good on his January promise to stay out of the predominantly Muslim Kashmir region.
"He must stop the incursions across the Line of Control. He must do so. He said he would do so. We and others are making it clear to him that he must live up to his word," Mr. Bush said after a morning meeting with his Cabinet.
The Line of Control is a military demarcation that divides the Himalayan state, which also borders China. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947 over the Kashmir region, where violence has flared in recent weeks.
The president said neither nation both of which have nuclear weapons stands to gain from a war.
"We are making it very clear to both Pakistan and India that war will not serve their interests. We are part of an international coalition applying pressure to both parties," Mr. Bush said.
In dispatching Mr. Rumsfeld to the region next week, the Bush administration is giving new prominence to the India-Pakistan conflict and hoping to increase pressure on both governments. Mr. Rumsfeld's visit will follow a trip on Thursday and Friday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's top aide, Richard Armitage.
The White House said the defense secretary, rather than the secretary of state, would handle the next round of talks because he was already scheduled to be in the region. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Armitage were chosen for the trip because "they both are experts in different areas."
Mr. Bush made clear that the India-Pakistan conflict could infringe on American interests, including the U.S.-led war against terrorism. The United States enlisted the help of Pakistan a foe of longtime U.S. ally India after September 11 to secure its border with Afghanistan in an effort to trap fleeing members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group.
It is reported that Pakistan is moving troops from its Afghan border to the Kashmir region as tensions heighten, which could create gaps for terrorists to slip through. But Mr. Bush warned bin Laden's terrorist group not to be emboldened by the conflict over Kashmir.
"Al Qaeda [will] find weakness, and we are doing everything we can to continue to shore up our efforts on the Pakistani-Afghan border. And they shouldn't think they're going to gain any advantage as a result of any conflict or talk of conflict between India and Pakistan, because we're still going to hunt them down," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Rumsfeld, who will meet with his counterparts in New Delhi and Islamabad during his trip, expressed hope yesterday that Pakistan would not redeploy troops from the Afghan border.
Mr. Rumsfeld would not say what action the United States would take if Pakistan moved troops but said, "We'd have to be more attentive inside Afghanistan if Pakistani forces were not on the opposite side of the border. We'd have to find ways to do it from within Afghanistan, for sure."
Mr. Rumsfeld said, "The number of Pakistani battalions that have been located along that Afghan border has not changed," but a Pakistani government spokesman said Pakistan had begun moving troops from the border.
Mr. Bush, in response to a question about a news report that the United States is planning to pull out more than 60,000 Americans from India and Pakistan, said Mr. Powell and Mr. Rumsfeld "are analyzing what it would take to protect American lives, if need be."
Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said evacuation plans by the U.S. embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad were being reviewed "to make sure the plans are current."
Mr. Fleischer said the evacuation reviews are not necessarily a signal of imminent withdrawal.
Kashmir has been a source of conflict between India and Pakistan since the two states won their independence from Britain in 1947.
India says Kashmir's ruler at the time pledged his allegiance to New Delhi.
In addition to the territory's strategic value, India fears that the loss of Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in the predominantly Hindu nation, could fuel ethnic tensions and separatist movements across the country.
Pakistan, founded as a Muslim homeland, argues that New Delhi has ignored the wishes and trampled the rights of Kashmir's Muslim majority. In addition, an indigenous separatist movement in Kashmir, seeking independence from both Pakistan and India, has been battling Indian forces since 1989.
Tension between the two countries has increased since December, when an attack on the Indian Parliament, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani-based Kashmiri militants, prompted the nations to put more than a million troops on their border.
Two weeks ago, Islamic militants killed more than 30 people, most of them Indian soldiers with their wives and children, in a part of Indian Kashmir.
Yesterday, Islamic militants killed three Indian police officers in Kashmir.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes showed no signs of backing down yesterday.
"He who wants to use a nuclear weapon against any other nuclear weaponized country must be willing to take back the same thing with interest," he said.
On the prospects of war, Mr. Fernandes said, "You don't expect a war. You don't want a war. But, as the saying goes, keep your powder dry."
David Sands contributed to this report.


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