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Press Briefing on Board Plane en route Bangkok


Press Briefing on Board Plane en route Bangkok

Secretary Colin L. Powell On Board Plane July 28, 2002

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me put the India Pakistan stops in a little perspective. When I decided to do an Asia trip that would extend beyond just Brunei, and give myself a chance to visit some other Asian countries I haven't been to yet, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, all of which are important nations, it also seemed appropriate that I should try to visit India and Pakistan.

There was no crisis to be resolved at the moment. In fact, the tension level had gone down over the last 6 weeks as a result of a lot of effective diplomacy on the part of the United States. Many calls I ve made with President Musharraf. Rich Armitage s trip, Don Rumsfeld s trip.

What I wanted to do is get a measure of where we are now, but something else that I thought was more important, and I think you heard me say it at every stop, both at Islamabad and in Delhi, was that the relationship goes beyond just the situation over the line of control and the crisis over terrorism and Kashmir. And I wanted to make sure that both nations heard that message coming loud and clear from the United States. Very often we hear from them that your principal focus is on the campaign against terrorism and just trying to calm things down so that it doesn t affect what might be going on in Afghanistan and we really do have a broader agenda. So that was one of my principal purposes and I did that both in Delhi and in Islamabad, but then also did talk about the situation over the line of control.

I was able to make sure that the commitment from the Pakistani side remained solid, with President Musharraf to end cross-border infiltration. Not only did he give the assurance publicly when Andrea asked him, but in private, he was even more he was even more positive with respect to his commitment to ending all infiltration. In fact, it became, I wouldn't say agitated, but it became a forceful discussion back and forth as I pointed out that we can t verify that yet and the Indians certainly don t accept it yet, and we have to do everything we can to make sure that what he is saying is the case in order for that argument to have credibility. That s why in the press conference in Delhi I made the point that there s a disagreement over this. The Pakistanis are saying one thing, the Indians are saying another, and I'm not able independently through my own sources able to substantiate everything the Pakistanis are saying to us. The chief of the ISI was also in the meetings and he too reaffirmed that cross-border infiltration will stop.

We talked about the camps and the best way to put the response is that they will be dealt with in due course. That will be reflected as the cross-border infiltration ends, the camps take on a different purpose. Essentially we'll start to, their form and substance and activities change, but you have people that have to be dealt with, who have to be moved. The important point though is that he reaffirmed the end of cross-border activity and

reaffirmed it as a permanent decision that they have made, and not a tactical decision.

On the Indian side, I was pleased that there was a solid commitment to dialogue. They understood that their dialogue had to include all the issues between the two nations but especially it had to include Kashmir.

We have now an interesting period ahead of us where we one, measure as best we can how the infiltration has gone down, and if it continues to drop, and it has dropped in recent weeks, although there are occasional spikes up and down according to the Indians, then we have a basis for going back to the Indians and saying you can now take further de-escalatory steps with respect to moving away from the international border. As the evidence becomes clearer, if it does, that it has stopped, then I think that we're in a better position to encourage both sides to get into the dialogue. The key pacing item here I think will be whether or not it happens before or after the election in Kashmir.

But I'm satisfied with the visit, it was not that we're on the eve of war, as it was 6 weeks ago. Quite the contrary. It s a little like George Schultz used to say - you have to tend the garden. So this was an opportunity to see Prime Minister Vajpayee, President Musharraf, to reaffirm their commitment to a political process, to make sure that we re not slipping backward with respect to going down the de-escalatory ladder, to make sure that both nations understood that we had a broader agenda beyond just the campaign against terrorism, which is important, and beyond just cross-border infiltration. In all those regards, I think I had a good response to my interlocutors and am pleased with the two visits. Questions?

QUESTION: You paint a very optimistic picture of the progress that you made, and yet in public the statements in both India and Pakistan led many of us to believe in fact, they really weren't prepared to move, it was the same old same old.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we're on a plateau right now, they've both taken action. Pakistan has taken very positive rhetorical action with respect to the line of control, and we have seen some actual action taken and we want to see more.

With respect to the Indians, they're watching for that action, they listen to the assurances but they want to see the action take place. So I think we're in a period where we have to be watchful, do everything we can to make sure that the assurances that we've been given are lived up to.

As I pointed out, these were assurances that were given to the United States - given to me, given to Rich, given to the President, and given to lots of others, my other colleagues who have come through here, Jack Straw, Solana, and all the others who come through here on a regular basis. So this was just an effort to keep that momentum moving, and other American officials will be coming through here on a regular basis.

I m pleased that we've come off that horrible pinnacle we were on a few weeks ago, where everybody was writing stories about we re going to war and it s going to be nuclear, and we were turning around people going to the region, putting in all kinds of warnings and having authorized departure. In a period of 6 weeks, we are able now to start reversing that, and starting to move things back to normal, so I think our diplomacy has been successful in recent weeks.

There s still a long way to go before negotiations begin, which gets back to the fundamental question of what happens in Kashmir? How do we resolve Kashmir? Which is one of the more vexing problems that has been there for 55 years without solution, and I think that we are a little closer to the possibility of discussions, dialogue, between the two sides.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up and ask what is Armitage going to do when he goes back?

SECRETARY POWELL: It depends, Rich will be here sometime in late August, and I m sure that it will be normal consultations on all the issues that I discussed. We ll see what has happened between now and then with respect to what we know about what s going back and forth across the line of control. It s a visit that s been scheduled for some time, since his last trip, and what we're going to do is to keep going into the region, to show not that we're here to solve a crisis of the moment, but that we are here to engage on a regular and steady basis. I look forward to my next trip here and I hope it will be more than 4 hours.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you made a point this morning with the Indian press conference of saying that Kashmir is now on the international agenda. Did you mean that to be some sort of code word as to this question that the Indians have resisted for so long which is making Kashmir an international as opposed to an internal issue?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I just meant it the way I said it. It's on the international agenda. Everybody s now focused on it. Everybody understands that we had a close run thing about a month or a month and a half ago, and the ultimate cause of that potential conflict was Kashmir.

So now everybody in the international community I think is focused on the need to get this tension down, to get demobilization back to original positions, but then in order not to see it all start over again, we need to get the two sides into a discussion on Kashmir. If you try to internationalize it at this point, it will not move forward because of Indian resistance to that.

QUESTION: Did it strike you as you examined this problem that hardly anybody ever took into account the views of the Kashmiri people on this, and do you see this election as a possible catalyst for rapid movement on this issue?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we'll have to wait and see how the election goes, whether it truly is free and fair and whether there is broad participation. There are some groups now who say they won't participate so I don't know that this election will be definitive in that light, but I think it s one step forward in a process of determining the will of the Kashmiri people.

QUESTION: I'm still confused about the observer monitor question. What did the Indians tell you, are they opposed to any kind of group like NDI or IRI coming in and monitoring and they ll only allow individuals based in Delhi or others to wander through?

SECRETARY POWELL: The distinct impression that I got in my conversations with them is that they are reluctant to allow any organized group to come in and essentially monitor the elections in the sense that, for example, I monitored the election in Nicaragua and I did another one in Jamaica with President Carter some years ago. They are willing to be rather forthcoming and open to those stationed in Delhi or others who might come into the country and wish to travel to Kashmir to see what s going on as individuals.

The one concern they did raise to me is that there is a security problem and they would have to take this into account because it is not the safest place in the world, and so I will leave it at that. We told them that it is in their interest to allow as many individuals to go into Kashmir to watch this as a way of being able to help them in making a judgment, help the world in making a judgment that the Indians conducted the elections in a free and fair way.

QUESTION: I wonder if you can tell us if you've had any further discussions on North Korea and what it looks like now for a meeting?

SECRETARY POWELL: Since I spoke to you yesterday, no. I haven't had any discussions. Jim Kelly will catch up with us somewhere, Assistant Secretary Jim Kelly is waiting for us in Thailand and he may have some more information, but no, I haven't heard anything.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know if you had any idea what would be on your agenda when you meet with the Palestinians next week, and Saeb Erekat, who else is going to be there?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have confirmation on all of the names. I expect that I'll be getting a message from Bill Burns in the course of the day. The areas we want to talk about - transformation, security, how to get the security organization built, I hope by then George Tenet will have his team ready to move. I'm sure there will be discussions about constitutional reform and elections coming up. I m sure a lot of our time will be spent on humanitarian issues, opening up the region, and what they see as their greatest humanitarian and economic needs.

I hope by then the Israelis will have provided some of the tax revenue back which they say they are getting ready to do, and that will provide some relief. I'm sure that they'll want to talk about the political process moving forward in parallel with humanitarian, economic, and security tracks. This was part of our concept as you recall from the President s speech, to begin talking to people who are empowered to talk to us and who can take responsibility for their actions who are accountable. We met with the Israelis last week. I had hoped to meet with the Palestinians last week as well, but their schedules didn t permit it so with my being away this week, it will have to be next week.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know about Tenet's team?

SECRETARY POWELL: George is trying to find the right guys, and he's hard at work and he might have solved it by now, who will actually go in and be on the ground and drive the security reorganization.

QUESTION: Back on India - the Israeli missile sales, or the desire to buy the anti-missile system, was that a point of discussion and where is that at now?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's still being discussed within the administration, we have not made a decision on that proposal. There are military technology control regime issues, there are competing issues, and there's just the situation in the region, so it's still under consideration within the administration. It did not come up at all during this discussion. I don't remember any of the Indian leaders raising it at all.

QUESTION: You mentioned on the way here, we talked about whether there was a timetable for dialogue on Kashmir. You made it pretty clear that you wanted to hear what they had to say. Am I right to understand from what you ve said, this is really not something that can be addressed until after infiltration stops and until after the elections?

SECRETARY POWELL: Elaine asks about the timetable for dialogue. The two sides will have to agree on this. Right now, the lineup I see is that the Pakistanis would like it to begin today. They are very anxious to get this dialogue going and they don t see why it should be held up over the line of control issue or the election in Kashmir issue.

The Indians have a different view. They believe it will be difficult to go forward with a dialogue as long as the cross-border infiltration was continuing, the terror attacks were continuing, and I think they had some questions in their mind about whether they should want to enter into a dialogue before the Kashmiri election is over. Here I m putting thoughts in the Indians mind which I didn t hear. They may also be wondering whether it would be wise to wait until after the Pakistani parliamentary elections to see what kind of government is formed.

So I would bound it by saying the Pakistanis would like to do it right away, the Indians clearly want to wait to make sure, see whether or not in their view the incursions across the line of control have stopped. They also have in the back of their mind the outcome of the Kashmiri elections as well as the Pakistani elections.

I would say that by the middle of the fall, if things go well across the line of control and we actually do see what President Musharraf is assuring us of, and if the elections unfold in a reasonable manner, then I think it would be every opportunity to really press for that dialogue to begin. The two parties will have to make that judgment, but I don t think that it s as far off as it was, say, a few weeks ago or a few months ago.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I just wonder if any of the complaints about Hindu sectarian violence in the Gujarat (sp) state came up at all in either India or Pakistan, I gather that s been an issue there.

SECRETARY POWELL: It has been an issue but it did not come up in any of the conversations that I had in both India and in Pakistan. No, I didn t raise it. We had more than enough to talk about. I was very pleased that I had a chance to see Prime Minister Vajpayee, it was a good conversation, it was not a long meeting because of schedule requirements but it was a good conversation.

QUESTION: Did the Indians provide you with any conclusive evidence about the incursions, and did any of that evidence lead you to believe that General Musharraf had any knowledge about the incursions?

SECRETARY POWELL: They didn't turn over anything, but they say that their information, their intelligence, is such that even though it has dropped, it has gone down, some say significantly, others in their government would say not that significantly, but it has gone down. But they still see evidence that it is continuing and that it is supported by the Pakistani side, that is the problem.

QUESTION: But not Musharraf?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is supported by the Pakistani side. That s what they say, and of course, with that, they mean Musharraf.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when Richard Armitage was in Pakistan, he said that President Musharraf told him that he was going to take action regarding the training camps. Has that started?

SECRETARY POWELL: There clearly has been some action with respect to the camps. I think it s preliminary, you can t tell whether some camps are just being moved from one place to another.

When you look at this problem, I think we talked about this the other day, it s not as if you are looking at 30 military camps sitting there. You re looking at villages, you re looking at camps. If you move them from one place to another, you haven't gotten rid of those people, you've moved them from one place to another. They still have the same motivation. Do they have access to the line of control to pursue that motivation? So I think as President Musharraf has said, he's going to end the cross-border infiltration, it's going to be permanent, and in due course, the camp issue will resolve itself. That s really the best I can do.

QUESTION: It's not clear why he hasn't done it before.

SECRETARY: Well, he has made promises, we are now starting to see a reduction of cross-border infiltration, he keeps reaffirming it. We keep reminding him that this is a promise that he has made, not only to the international community but especially to the United States Administration, to the President, and to me, and we drive the point home. As you heard him say, nothing's going on. As I said to him in his meetings, I heard you, I am pleased at that reassurance, but I cannot confirm what you are saying. So we have to keep pushing on him.

QUESTION: Just back up to the Middle East for a second. you've spoken before about the new Palestinian interior minister, Mr. Yehia (sp), and Saeb Erekat said he was likely to be one of the people that he s bringing with him. Does that mean you consider him someone who has authority to speak for the Palestinian people and that you believe he can be the starting point for reorganization of the security forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not sure yet, Karen. He has made a few good moves and if he is one of those who ultimately does show up, and does come, I will assume he is coming with the authority to talk to us in a serious way about reorganization, but I have to withhold judgment until we do meet with him. This is a very important part of the plan. The security has to come first, as I have said repeatedly, and the incidents of recent days reaffirms that.

What we keep driving home to the Palestinians is that this is your opportunity to get into the second half of the President's June 24 speech. Don t forget what s in there. The Palestinian state in 3 years, there may be a state with interim boundaries and arrangements on the way there, the end of occupation, the end of settlement activity. There's a lot of substance in that part of the speech. That's really why the Arabs are working so closely with us. I think we don t look at that part of the speech enough. The focus has been on the first part of the speech and our relationship with Arafat.

QUESTION: Thank you.

[End]

Released on July 29, 2002


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