Rumsfeld Discusses India-Pakistan Situation, Pending Visit
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 4, 2002 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today shared his thoughts about the current military standoff between India and Pakistan shortly before departing on a trip to Europe, the Middle East and South Asia to check security ties and visit U.S. troops.
Rumsfeld said he plans to visit Indian and Pakistani officials as part of multinational efforts to defuse tension between the two countries over the disputed region of Kashmir. For weeks, Indian and Pakistani troops have shelled each other in a tense standoff made more nail- biting because both have nuclear weapons.
However, the secretary told Pentagon reporters that he wasn't going to India and Pakistan "as some sort of mediator." That role, Rumsfeld pointed out, belongs to the U.S. State Department, specifically to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who travels to India and Pakistan before the U.S. defense secretary.
India and Pakistan are two important, sovereign countries that have good security and defense relations with the United States, which have strengthened over the past year, the secretary said. The United States, he emphasized, greatly values those relationships.
"Our hope is that those relationships will be useful in having those two countries find their way to (making) right decisions with respect to the tension that exists," he explained.
Rumsfeld noted that Pakistan "has been quite cooperative" in providing assistance to the United States during the war against terrorism. Pakistani troops still patrol their country's western border with Afghanistan on the watch for fugitive al Qaeda and Taliban forces, he said.
Pakistani military assets that have been pulled off the line along the Afghan border for duty near Kashmir have been relatively small, modest elements and not larger units, Rumsfeld said. The larger units are still on Afghan border duty, he added.
The secretary asked aloud whether tensions between Pakistan and India were a distraction from U.S., coalition and allied efforts against global terrorism.
"I would say, 'Yes,'" Rumsfeld answered. "Has it specifically damaged in precise ways what we're trying to do? Not that I know of."
Rumsfeld agreed with Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who noted it's reasonable to expect that al Qaeda might try to exploit tensions between India and Pakistan.
The secretary noted that he didn't know of any such incidents, however.
Turning to another part of the world, Rumsfeld noted that the U.S. military training mission in the Philippines to help that country's military confront Abu Sayyaf terrorists has "gone well." The attitude of the Philippine people and government "has been very positive" toward the U.S.- Philippine training, he noted.
The secretary's trip schedule features a stop in London to thank British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon for his country's support to America during the war on global terrorism.
Next, Rumsfeld travels to Brussels, Belgium, to attend North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministerial meetings, including first-ever NATO-Russia Council talks.
Discussions in Brussels will also focus on new NATO capabilities, to include confronting possible terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction, military air cargo and troop deployment issues, and the revamping of the alliance's command, control and communications systems.
NATO and other allied countries' military forces have played a critical role in the war on terrorism, Rumsfeld said. He is slated to visit an AWACS facility in Germany to meet with aircrews who flew 360 sorties over American airspace.
The secretary said he then goes to the Estonian capital city of Tallinn, where he will meet with senior defense representatives of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which all want to join NATO.
Rumsfeld said he would also visit several Middle East countries to meet with senior officials. Many of those countries, he noted, have been very helpful in providing support to the United States during the anti-terror war.
The length of the secretary's trip could extend into the end of next week, and other countries could be added to the itinerary, according to DoD officials.