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Border control offer from Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld/Khan
Donald Rumsfeld is greeted by Pakistan's Defense Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan  


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has arrived in Islamabad for talks with President Pervez Musharraf as the second leg of his mission to try to ease tension in South Asia gets underway.

Rumsfeld is expected to raise with Musharraf the issue of monitoring the Line of Control between India and Pakistan in the disputed region of Kashmir, which has proved a flashpoint for hostilities between the nuclear-capable neighbors.

The U.S. envoy has just completed a visit to the Indian capital of New Delhi where he met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and other senior Indian figures.

Vajpayee had last week proposed joint military patrolling of the LoC with Pakistan, but that offer was rejected.

It is thought Rumsfeld may propose some compromise plan for patrolling the region and cracking down on the militant activity in Kashmir which India maintains is the key to restoring good relations.

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Rumsfeld earlier said there were "indications" that al Qaeda militants were operating near the LoC in the mountainous Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The al Qaeda network is suspected of carrying out the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Rumsfeld made the comments after talks with Indian leaders including Vajpayee in New Delhi on Wednesday, during which he offered the use of American technology to help monitor India's border with Pakistan, sources told CNN. (Full story.)

"I have seen indications that there in fact are al Qaeda operating in the area ... near the line of control," Rumsfeld told a news conference.

"I do not have hard evidence of precisely how many or who or where and needless to say there are a lot of people in the world that want to stop al Qaeda from planning or executing an attack," he added.

Rumsfeld is the latest of a parade of Western diplomats over the last three weeks to visit South Asia in the hope to defuse what had been growing tensions between India and Pakistan that have brought the two close to war.

India has alleged that members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network have regrouped in Kashmir after being forced out of Afghanistan during the U.S.-led campaign in the Central Asian nation.

Pakistan has pledged to put a stop to cross-border insurgency of Muslim militants in support of a 12-year separatist revolt in the Indian-controlled region of the disputed territory.

Hi-tech help

In response, India has made several conciliatory gestures to ease the standoff including withdrawing warships from near Pakistani waters and reopening its airspace to Pakistani flights.

In New Delhi, Rumsfeld backed the moves made by India to improve relations with Pakistan, saying the steps taken were "constructive."

Sources traveling with Rumsfeld told CNN that the United States is considering the use of American technology to help India and Pakistan monitor their LoC.

Indian diplomatic sources told CNN that the American and Indian delegations "have reached an agreement in principle for sharing and evaluating intelligence inputs in a more organized way" across the LoC. (Full story.)

Pakistan: More needed

Meanwhile, in reaction to the Indian conciliatory gestures, Pakistan says more was needed and that the "main causes of tension" still need to be addressed.

"In a situation where the Indian forces are massed on Pakistan's borders in a dangerous posture of confrontation, the Indian decisions do not address the main causes of tension," a statement from the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"We trust that the Indian government will soon announce further steps leading to the resumption of a meaningful dialogue on disputes between the two countries, especially the core issue of Kashmir," it said.

In other moves, India is also believed to have selected a new high commissioner to head its diplomatic mission in Pakistan, but hasn't yet sought the Pakistani government's approval for the appointment.

India has withdrawn a fleet of five naval ships from the Arabian Sea near Pakistan
India has withdrawn a fleet of five naval ships from the Arabian Sea near Pakistan  

However, no mention has yet been made of a withdrawal of Indian troops, thought to number around 750,000, along the border with Pakistan and the LoC.

Pakistan, whose armed forces are far fewer in number, is thought to have deployed some 250,000 troops along its side. (Maps and military.)

In other developments in Kashmir, seven Islamic militants, fighting among themselves, were killed in a gun battle, police officials said. (Full story.)



 
 
 
 






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