May 2002 News

Infiltration must end but talks should resume: Rocca

15 May 2002
The Hindu

NEW DELHI: While advocating the termination of cross-border terrorism, the United States today called for an early resumption of talks between India and Pakistan to defuse border tensions. At a press conference hours before her departure for Islamabad in which she sketched a roadmap for better ties between India and Pakistan, the visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, said Indo-Pakistani tensions must end as they could ''spark off'' an ''unintended war''. Urging a reduction of the border tensions, she said, ''We are very worried about the continued mobilisation of the two major armies facing each other in close proximity and the threat that could be posed by a spark and lead to an unintended conflict.'' She pointed out that the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had repeatedly sought to sensitise leaders in the subcontinent on the possibility of an ''unintended conflict''. Gen. Powell, during his visit to India in January, proposed that the weapons mobilised by India on the border need not always be kept on hair-trigger alert. Ms. Rocca acknowledged that the tensions between India and Pakistan had not eased since the December 13 assault on Parliament. The attack in Jammu on Tuesday had only vitiated the atmosphere further. ''We think that the level of tension needs to be eased somehow, and acts like this were clearly aimed at achieving the opposite objective and are intended to undermine peace and stability in the region as a whole.'' She said that the U.S. saw the Jammu attack as an act of international terrorism. ''Terrorism against any country is part of the war on terrorism. Terrorism against India is as unacceptable as it is against America or against any other country.'' Apart from proposing border de-escalation, Ms. Rocca pointed to two basic premises for improving Indo-Pakistani ties. In an obvious reference to cross- border intrusions into Jammu and Kashmir, she said that all infiltrations ''must stop'' as these were counter-productive. The U.S., however, was still in the process of determining the exact level of intrusions. She said that Pakistani action on the list of 20 fugitives given to it by India need not become a benchmark for reviving the dialogue. ''This is one of the series of things that are possibilities. But I wouldn''t hang my head on any one step being the ultimate answer. There are a number of things that could be done to ease tensions.'' To a question, she indicated that India need not wait for a Pakistani initiative to curb infiltration for restarting talks. ''The situation is complicated and it is not in black and white. Both sides should sit together to defuse tensions.'' The U.S. ''is going to work closely, very intensely to try to reduce the level of tension and try to get both sides to talk because nothing gets resolved without dialogue ultimately.'' Asked whether Washington would urge the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, to hold talks in Kazakhstan where they might be present next month, she said, ''We always encourage both sides to talk.'' Reiterating that the U.S. would stay away from direct mediation, she said that India and Pakistan should themselves take concrete steps to resolve their differences.


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