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Rumsfeld Media Availability with Pakistani President Musharraf

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 13, 2002 3:40 PM EDT

(Joint media availability with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. My apologies for being a little later than we had planned. We've -- President Musharraf, I want to welcome you to the Pentagon, your first visit. We're very pleased to have you here. We're honored to have you here. We visited this morning when the president met with President Musharraf, and we have just completed a(n) interesting and productive meeting this afternoon.

Right after the September 11th attack on this building and the World Trade Center, the president of Pakistan strongly voiced his and his country's support for the effort on terrorism. And just last month President Musharraf took additional measures to rein in extremism and to extend his government's cooperation against terrorism. He's made a series of very tough decisions, taken a number of bold steps, and we certainly welcome his decision to place Pakistan among the ranks of nations that are helping to deal with the problems of global terrorism.

In our discussions today, we had some talks about the political military situation in South Asia. We discussed what we in the United States call Operation Enduring Freedom, and certainly Pakistan's support for that effort has been important, it has been significant, and it is appreciated.

We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the efforts to help assure that there is a stable, broadly based government in that country and that hopefully the people of that country can be freed of the war and conflict and drought and starvation and problems they've faced for so many years.

We have talked of a number of ways of strengthening the military- to-military relationship between our two countries. The defense consultation group is being reestablished, of course, with -- Undersecretary Doug Feith will be the U.S. representative, and we look forward to strengthening the military-to-military ties.

Mr. President, we -- our country -- and indeed the world -- has a big stake in your country and your part of the world, and we wish you well in your important work.

Thank you for coming.

Musharraf: Thank you.

Thank you very much. It's my pleasure and my privilege to be here in the Pentagon. It is the first to Washington and to Pentagon, and this is my first visit to this room, which I've been seeing almost every day on television. And this point, I will just -- I'm so familiar with this point.

Rumsfeld: (laughs)

Musharraf: It's my pleasure to be standing at this rostrum, which I've been seeing on the television so frequently.

I had -- we had a wonderful interaction with the secretary of Defense on all military matters. Let me share that Pakistan and United States have enjoyed very close military relations, military ties, which go to the strategic level of cooperation in the past. And it is my pleasure to revive the same degree of relationship again with the United States. We have cooperated in the past in all actions. I remember our cooperation in Somalia and other United Nations missions abroad where Pakistani forces and U.S. forces have interacted with each other very closely and very successfully. So therefore, it is Pakistan's desire to increase the level of cooperation with the United States in all fields of military activity.

In Afghanistan, as the secretary of Defense has said, we are cooperating in our -- in the fight against terrorism, and in this, may I share that this cooperation is going on with no problems whatsoever. We are cooperating in exchange of intelligence and information. We are cooperating in the provision of logistic support and our airspace -- provision of our airspace. I think this cooperation has seen excellent interaction again between the two forces.

We look forward to reinforcing this cooperation and interaction between the two forces.

I'm very glad to be here. And thank you very much. Thank you, sir.

Rumsfeld: We have time for about four questions. Why don't we take a couple from the United States side and a couple from the Pakistan side. And Mr. President, we have a strange practice here where we always have the first question from the dean. (laughter)

Musharraf: Okay.

Rumsfeld: Except when we have a foreign visitor, and -- even when we have a foreign visitor. (laughter)

Charlie.

Q: Mr. Secretary, very briefly, when is the United States prepared to resume arms transfers to Pakistan? And if I might just very briefly, I might ask the president, Mr. President, are you disappointed, as a man who's -- as the secretary's said, has made a series of very difficult decisions, are you disappointed that you've received little beyond some assurances of debt relief since you got here?

Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: You know, can you believe that he would ask that question?

Musharraf: (laughs)

Rumsfeld: I mean, really.

The short answer is that we have discussed various types of ways that the United States and Pakistan can go back to our pre-sanction cooperative arrangement, and those discussions are ongoing.

Musharraf: Well, on the other side, the debt relief point, now we are partners with the United States in the fight against terrorism. We did not quantify the return that we'll get for this. But I'm very glad to say that the United States understands our concerns and our short-comings. And we are glad to say that we got necessary support from the United States. As far as this visit particularly is concerned, we certainly are talking of debt write-off. But I would not like to go into the details of what is happening until it is officially announced.

Rumsfeld: Now, is there a Pakistan -- yes?

Q: Yeah, Mr. Rumsfeld, my question is that, you know, India has recently tested its second missile -- (inaudible). And India is dealing with Russia, and Russia is supplying more arms to India. The United States is a key partner to Pakistan. The United States is (going to?) provide the weapons and arms and military sales to Pakistan? (There's too much?) still sort of unbalance in that part of the world.

Rumsfeld: Well, my -- you know, I'm -- those are the kinds of questions, I think, that really the president and Secretary Powell tend to respond to, but let me just say this. That Pakistan and India are each sovereign states. They are each important countries. And needless to say, the principal interest of the United States is seeing that those two countries are able to talk and manage their affairs in a peaceful way. Each of those countries has relationships with a number of other countries and, indeed, purchases weapons from a number of other countries. And that is not surprising, since each is a sovereign nation.

So I think that our hope, and I know that the president and Secretary Powell and President Musharraf have all discussed this on a number of occasions, is that what we will see is a peaceful resolution of what clearly has been a very tense period in recent months.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: May I ask the president a question? Would you give us your latest assessment of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden? Are you still of the belief that he most likely died of kidney failure?

Musharraf: Well, my assessment only can be as good as -- or bad -- as yours. I place two -- like two possibilities as priority one and two. You can place them in any order. That he could have died or he's alive in Afghanistan. I wouldn't like to say beyond that. I can't be sure of which order this priority can be. But I --

Q: (off mike)

Musharraf: Yes. I would certainly think that he is in Afghanistan, either dead or alive.

Rumsfeld: And the last question from -- coming from Pakistan.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Pakistan -- the president of Pakistan himself -- have gone out on the limb for the United States and has helped in every possible way.

Can you please tell us specifically what kind of agreement and what kind of a deal, if any, you have offered a person or a country in the way to help us at this point, especially in view of India's massing forces at the border?

Rumsfeld: You are right. Pakistan and the president of Pakistan have taken a very bold and firm and constructive position with respect to the situation on the war on terrorism and with respect to the situation in Afghanistan. As the president indicated, the United States and Pakistan have what we consider to be a long-lasting relationship that is a strategic relationship. It is mutually beneficial. And we look forward to strengthening it in a variety of different ways.

The president of the United States and the president of Pakistan had a good discussion today. And I might just add that a good number of the members of the Pakistan senior officials from the government are here, as well as the ambassador. And they were in the meetings, and they have been talking to a variety of the cabinet departments. And in addition, the president is meeting with people on Capitol Hill. And I think that it is probably best to leave for the president and his team to discuss the particular meetings they have had and the relationships that are being established between not just the Pentagon, but also the Department of State and the Department of Commerce and other elements of the government.

Is that a fair representation of your day, sir?

Musharraf: Yes. Well, the relationship does not end today, or it does not end with my visit. We have decided to cooperate, and we look forward to improved relations in all (spheres?). We look forward to addressing of all our requirements as time passes. Now, one cannot really quantify what you are saying in exact terms, what exactly we have got. But there's a list of our requirements which we have discussed. And we hope that as time passes we have also established this defense assistance group --

Staff: Consultative group.

Musharraf: -- defense consultative group. That will look into the physical side of what we are -- what we need to address. I think the future holds good for our relationship and for the equipment that you are talking about in concrete forms. As time passes things will start happening.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you.

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