End Kashmir violence, envoy warns
NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Warning that all cross-border violence must end, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Saturday he is encouraged by signs that India and Pakistan are moving toward that goal.
"I am cautiously optimistic that the process begun by the act of statesmanship by the prime minister of India could possibly lead to a step-by-step process that would eventually resolve all issues," Armitage told reporters during his tour of southern and central Asian nations.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has said he is willing to open talks with Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir if Islamabad stops what he called "cross-border infiltration" into the Indian sector of the Himalayan area.
Armitage said Washington would like to establish strong relations with both countries without having to worry about the Kashmir issue.
"But that's a hope we have. It's a long trip until one would get there. I just hope we've begun a process," he said.
"The fact of the matter is people are dying. And whenever people die, when women and children and innocent noncombatants die for political purposes, one has to call that terrorism," Armitage said.
"From our point of view, the fact of the matter is that all violence has got to end."
More than 30,000 people have died in fighting in Kashmir since a separatist movement took root in 1989.
India blames Pakistan for arming, training and encouraging militants who take part in cross-border attacks in Kashmir.
Pakistan denies the charge and insists it provides only moral and diplomatic support for the Kashmiri people's right to self-determination.
Two weeks ago, Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali welcomed Vajpayee's offer to set up talks and said Pakistan was ready for a dialogue on any level, according to a statement from Pakistan's press office.
Vajpayee told India's parliament he would restore diplomatic ties with Pakistan and reopen air links between the countries.
Tuesday, Pakistan announced the restoration of full diplomatic relations with India and called for "sustained dialogue" between the two nuclear nations, which share a 1,800-mile border.
Wednesday, India sent a letter to the Pakistani government requesting approval to appoint a new high commissioner to Islamabad, spokesman Navtej Sarna said. India has not had a high commissioner, or ambassador, in Pakistan since 2001.
Armitage, who arrived in New Delhi after traveling to Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad, praised Pakistan for arresting hundreds of suspected terrorists as part of the global war on terrorism.
"Nuclear realities in our region impose certain obligations and responsibilities on our two countries," Jamali said Thursday.
"It is therefore important for both India and Pakistan to engage in serious discussion for nuclear and strategic stability in our region."