Armitage wants end to all violence in Kashmir
10 May 2003
NEW DELHI: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has expressed 'cautious optimism' on peace initiatives by India and Pakistan and normalization of relations between the two countries. He was briefing newsmen here on Saturday at the end of his three- nation South Asian tour which took him to Islamabad, Kabul and New Delhi. India reportedly told Mr Armitage not to trust Pakistan's claims about the eradication of terrorist camps it believes operate across the Line of Control but to go by what action Islamabad actually takes to shut them down The US deputy secretary of state, on his part, told reporters after a meeting with senior officials and with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, that any loss of innocent lives in violence was reprehensible. There were unconfirmed reports of a move to dispatch some Indian troops from Kashmir to Iraq as part of an arrangement with the United States to manage the evoking situation in Baghdad. This could not be officially confirmed. Mr Armitage praised Mr Vajpayee's peace initiative and said it could possibly lead to a step-by-step process for India and Pakistan to live as peaceful neighbours. 'I am cautiously optimistic,' he said. When asked to comment on India's complaint of 'cross-border terrorism,' Mr Armitage said 'cross-border violence' was a terrible thing and all violence must end. He noted that in his discussions both in Islamabad and Delhi the issue was discussed. About his remarks in Islamabad that President Pervez Musharraf had promised to wind up 'terrorists camps' in Pakistan, he said 'The fact of the matter is that people are trying to do whatever they could.' The US envoy said he was told in Pakistan that more than 500 terrorists had been arrested there. Of them six were to have caused great harm to Americans in that country. Mr Armitage met leader of the opposition Sonia Gandhi to start his discussions in New Delhi. He later met Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani. He delivered an invitation to Mr Advani from US Vice President Dick Cheney to visit Washington. The visit is scheduled for next month. An inkling into India's thinking at the highest level on the roadmap ahead with Pakistan, came from Mr Brajesh Mishra, the National Security Adviser and Mr Vajpayee's Principal Secretary. He was quoted in a news report as saying that a number of issues had to be resolved with Pakistan, including Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek. 'I cannot tell you today what kind of solution will be found really once the dialogue begins and it is sustained over a period. We must not jump into some meeting or anything like that at the present moment. 'This is an opportunity. It should not be wasted by acting in haste. And from the reactions I have seen in the media of Pakistan, apparently this is also the desire on the part of Pakistan to proceed stage-by- stage,' Mr Mishra was quoted as saying. Mr Advani briefed Mr Armitage about the operational network of the alleged terrorists. Reports said senior Indian sleuths were involved in the detailed briefing about the cross-border terrorism issue. Mr Armitage refused to speak to the media after the meeting with Mr Advani. Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal and Home Secretary N Gopalaswami were also present at the meeting. In response to Mr Armitage's statement on Thursday that President Pervez Musharraf has assured him that there were no terrorist training camps in Azad Kashmir, Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes said 'There is plenty of evidence that camps exist not just in PoK but also in Pakistan.' Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna, briefing reporters at the end of Mr Armitage's discussions with Mr Vajpayee, said his visit could not be characterised as one of carrying messages between India and Pakistan. Mr Sarna said the Indian side had stressed the need for Pakistan to act on the economic front. 'We discussed both the need to move on the economic ties and also the inadequacies of Pakistan's response on that,' Mr Sarna said. 'We need to create a situation, a right atmosphere so that the dialogue can start.' Quoting from a delegation-level meeting with Mr Armitage, he said 'We will judge Pakistan by what they do, not what they say.' When asked to comment on the US approach to terrorism and what worries India, Mr Sarna said 'The duality is self-evident.' Mr Armitage expressed appreciation for India's resumption of the peace process. Mr Sarna added that eventually, 'It is for India to judge whether a conducive atmosphere has been created for a dialogue to take place.'