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'De-escalation, De-escalization Or De-escalatory Action'

In his interview with Jaffer Bilgrami of PTV, Islamabad, Pakistan, January 17, 2002, the US secretary of state chooses his words carefully w.r.t. Kashmir, mediation, and international observers...

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'De-escalation, De-escalization Or De-escalatory Action'
'De-escalation, De-escalization Or De-escalatory Action'

PTV: Mr. Secretary, what is the main purpose of your visit to India and Pakistan? What are you basically trying to achieve?

Colin Powell: Well, I hope that as a result of my visit we can keep the process moving forward to find a solution to the current crisis between India and Pakistan. I am somewhat encouraged. I think that President Musharraf gave a very historic speech this past weekend, an important speech about the way ahead for Pakistan – stop violence, stop terrorism, deal with fundamentalism and use jihad for the purpose of improving the lives of people, not taking the lives of people. 

It was a very important speech on his part, and recognized as such by the Pakistani people, recognized as such by the international community, and I think the Indian response was quite measured and I think they are reflecting on the speech. We’ve also seen actions taken in response to that speech so I want to learn more about what President Musharraf plans to do with respect to implementing the words of his speech and then I want to go consult with my Indian associates, my Indian colleagues, and continue to assess their reaction to the speech so we can start moving in a de-escalatory way.

I think the speech in itself was de-escalatory and the actions he has taken since are de-escalatory. We want to find ways to de-escalate militarily, de-escalate some of the political and diplomatic steps that have been taken in recent weeks, such as the overflight restraints and traffic back and forth across the border, and hopefully we are moving in that direction now. Be patient but I think my presence shows the importance that President Bush attaches to this issue and the desire to find a peaceful solution. We really cannot have a war in South Asia, and we have to find a way to work our way through this crisis.

PTV: Do you think there’s a possibility of initiating shuttle diplomacy in the region in order to bring India and Pakistan to the dialogue table?

Colin Powell I don’t know if shuttle diplomacy is the right answer. Good will is what is really necessary and as we work our way out of this crisis it should be obvious to everyone that what we do need is dialogue between India and Pakistan on all of the outstanding issues, to include Kashmir. Both sides have expressed a willingness for such a dialogue, and I think we have to get through this current crisis. But as soon as we are through, then I think we should have a dialogue. The United States is willing to help the two sides begin such a dialogue but the dialogue has to be between them and not with intermediaries, but between them. And so phone diplomacy these days is sometimes as effective as shuttle diplomacy and I can assure you, I have a very large phone bill.

PTV: Pakistan is ready to de-escalate and to hold talks but New Delhi is putting conditions. After your meeting in Islamabad, do you think you will be able to convince New Delhi to come to the dialogue table?

Colin Powell What I want to do is learn all I can here in Islamabad about what President Musharraf is planning, not only in the intermediate term but in the long term, take all that information with me to New Delhi and speak to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister there, get their assessment of what’s happened, and see if I can bridge the differences, bridge whatever outstanding differences there are that will keep us from de-escalating this as soon as possible. De-escalation, de-escalization or de-escalatory action, is what we’re looking for right now.

PTV: There is a growing perception among the Pakistani people that America is again siding with the Indians by speaking their language and accepting their demands. This has given India to come out with their arms build up. Would you like to comment on this perception?

Colin Powell It’s not a correct perception. The United States is a friend to both nations, to both Pakistan and India, and especially since President Musharraf made his bold decision after the events of the 11th of September, I think we have shown that we can be a reliable partner with Pakistan once again. And we want to help Pakistan in every way possible to deal with this current crisis, and we are anxious to help Pakistan with its economic difficulties and with the reformation that President Musharraf has laid out for his country. President Bush asked me just the other day, "How can we help with the reformation of their school system, with making sure the madrassas are now educating youngsters as well as indoctrinating youngsters?" And so America wishes to be a friend to Pakistan and a friend to India. To the extent that we have good relations with both countries, then I think we are in a position to help both countries deal with the differences that exist between them.

PTV: President General Pervez Musharraf has asked the United Nations, Amnesty International, the human rights organizations and the international media to record the state terrorism perpetrated by India.. Would you like to open a window by asking India to invite the (inaudible) to visit that area?

Colin Powell It seems to me that the very first thing we need to do is to get a dialogue going between the two sides, and get a listing of the issues, get an understanding of the different points of view and get a direct dialogue between the two sides. When that takes place then we can see what else might be necessary with respect to observers coming in and all the other things that might happen. But it seems to me that it would be much more effective if this could be the result of a dialogue between the two sides. (inaudible)

PTV: Do you think that without addressing the Kashmir issue there can be any lasting peace in the region?

Colin Powell: I think that the issue of Kashmir is an extremely important one. It has been one of a number of issues but a very dominant issue for many decades now, and ultimately if we are going to achieve the kind of peace we want to see here in South Asia, a dialogue must begin that will deal with the issue of Kashmir, and in a way that will take into account the history of the region, take into account the views of the (inaudible). And especially takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

PTV: What is the perception of the role of the United Nations, particularly in this region after September 11? (inaudible) What is the role of the United States?

Colin Powell The United States will remain engaged in South Asia and Central Asia. We’ve made it clear that now that the military campaign in Afghanistan is starting to wind down, – we’ll be there for some months but it’s starting to wind down – we want to remain engaged in reconstruction efforts, we want to remain engaged in humanitarian efforts, we want to work with the Central Asian republics that border Afghanistan and of course we want to be engaged more than ever with both India and Pakistan.

The issues are important, the equities that we have with the two countries are important, and I think that both India and Pakistan will find in the United States and in President Bush an Administration and a government that wants to engage with both for the purpose of bringing peace and stability but beyond that, to help all the people in the region lift themselves up, start to develop wealth that will benefit all the people within these nations. And so economic development, the elimination of poverty, the education of young people, proving clean water, providing health, water – all of these issues are part of the jihad that President Musharraf was speaking of, and that’s what we want to help him with, and all of the other nations in the region.

PTV: My last question: Do you think the world is now much safer after waging war against terrorism?

Colin Powell The world is not yet safe from terrorism, but I think it is a little safer now that we have struck against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the Taliban and I think the world will be safer with each passing day as long as we all remain engaged in this campaign against terrorism. And that’s why it’s so important for India and Pakistan to be engaged in the campaign against terrorism and not get engaged in a campaign against each other.

PTV: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

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