India-Pakistan Situation 'Still Tense,' not Escalating
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Jun. 10, 2002 "It is still a tense situation" in the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this morning shortly before departing Kuwait.
Rumsfeld visited U.S. troops and Kuwaiti leaders during his overnight stay in Kuwait. He spoke briefly about the India- Pakistan situation in a wide-ranging press conference before boarding his plane and arrived here late this morning.
He said there are "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of armed troops" on either side of the line of control separating the two entities and that sporadic artillery fire in the area continues.
"On the other hand, (Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf) has taken steps to stop aggression across the line of control," Rumsfeld said. "At the moment, I would not say (the situation) is continuing to escalate."
Rumsfeld plans to visit the two nuclear-capable rivals later this week after departing the Persian Gulf, where he is visiting U.S. allies in the war on terrorism.
He said he is looking forward to meeting with the presidents of the two countries. "The United States has had very good relationships with each of those countries, relationships that haven't been long-standing but have been developing and maturing in recent months and years," Rumsfeld explained.
He also mentioned the United States has seen "scraps of information that suggest" al Qaeda operatives may be stirring up trouble in Kashmir. He didn't specify but admitted the United States is concerned about the possibility.
"It's rather clear that quite apart from what may evolve as India and Pakistan's interest in lessening tensions, you can imagine that al Qaeda might have interest in increasing tensions in the region," he said.
By the time Rumsfeld returns to Washington later this week, his scheduled 10-day trip will have taken him through Europe, the Middle East, and India and Pakistan.