April 17, 2021
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Media Briefing

'It's Not Getting Worse'

The US secretary of defence on the Indo-Pak situation before his arrival in India.

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'It's Not Getting Worse'
Revelant excerpts from Secretary Rumsfeld's Media Availability in Qatar, June 11, 2002.

Q: Mr. Secretary, in light of your approaching trip to India and Pakistan, what do you make of the steps that India has taken over the past day or so to take the edge off the tensions with Pakistan, and what do you hope to accomplish by your trip to the region?

Rumsfeld: The situation with India and Pakistan appears to be a level, as opposed to an escalating situation. The two governments have been in touch with world leaders -- Prime Minister Blair, President Bush, Secretary Powell and others. Deputy Secretary Armitage was been there some days ago.

There are a lot of rumors about what various countries are doing. There is a lot of speculation in the press about what they are doing. I've been, needless to say, studying the cable traffic and I think that there is a growing awareness on the part of everyone in the world that clearly a conflict there would be a terrible tragedy for each of those countries, and indeed for everyone in the entire region and the world.

My impression is that there have been some hopeful signs, and I look forward to going in there this evening into India and having an opportunity to meet personally with the leadership there and have discussions with them.

Q: It is reported that you have some definite proposals that you are carrying to discuss with the leaders on India and Pakistan. I mean, how do you intend to deal with the issues. Is that correct?

Rumsfeld: What do you have in mind?

Q: Well, you have some definite proposals by the U.S. to deescalate the situation.

Rumsfeld: Well, we do. There is no question. We certainly have things we can discuss with him, and things they have been discussing, and I look forward to meeting with them. But I am certainly not going to preview my discussions with them. I am going there to meet with them, and I think it would not be very gracious to be meeting with them through the press before I meet with them.

But I have -- our country has good relationships with both Pakistan and India; we value those relationships. They have been relationships that have been strengthening in recent months and years, and needless to stay our country has an interest in each of those two countries succeeding and doing well. Clearly the kind of tension that has existed is harmful to each country; it is very expensive and very stressful to maintain forces on high alert.

It is clear that people are reluctant to travel in those countries when there is kind of tension so from an economic standpoint it is difficult, quite apart from the rest.

Q: Sir, if I may follow up. Do you believe the facts of the ground support the announcements that he has made?

Rumsfeld: Well, I've not been on the ground in the LOC in Kashmir. It is a difficult part of the world. It is 15- to 20,000 feet high in the northern three-quarters of the LOC. It's mountainous. I don't know anyone has perfect visibility into what is taking place there.

Second, there is a concern that very likely, there were already militants in there and that someone could engage in an act that could create an incident that someone could say, well, you know those people just came across the LOC. But they might very well have already been there.

Needless to say, a third worry is the fact that we know al Qaeda and Taliban left Afghanistan and transited into Iran and into Pakistan and it's conceivable that some of them might decide that it would be in their interest to create an incident, purposely, not for the benefit of Kashmir, but to cause a conflict between India and Pakistan, with the hope that they could pick up the pieces to their advantage.

So this is -- each side is doing what they are doing. They are reflecting on where they are and the danger that exists with a million people facing each other -- armed people -- and they are taking steps, or thinking about taking steps, and each is going to have to be aware that it is not going to be a perfect process. That is to say, things can still happen for reasons other than either of those two parties. And to the extent that we are all aware of that, and they are, then I think that such an incident would be less likely to cause a miscalculation.

Q: Have you, on the Indian side, yet seen any specific gestures on their part to reduce tension, either diplomatically or militarily.

Rumsfeld: I am going to wait until I visit with them later today.

Q: What is the best outcome that you can reasonably expect from this visit to India and Pakistan, and also, do you believe that, you know, the threat of nuclear war has been diminished fully?

Rumsfeld: You know, in my role as a representative of the United States that is just about to go visit India and Pakistan, it seems to me that talking about it -- a subject that can be then interpreted, or carried in the media or the press in a somewhat inflammatory way is a worrisome thing. So I try not to. I try to respond in a way that is precise and accurate and direct, but not inflammatory.

The situation is as well known to everyone in this room as it is to me, in terms of what the externals are. The externals are that you have two important countries that have something like a million people facing each other that are armed and they have a history of having had conflicts over Kashmir and each country has nuclear weapons.

Now, where are they? Generally in a set of relationships that are tense, it is either getting better or it's getting worse, worse or it's getting better, or it is level.

I have responded that my personal view is at the moment is something like level. It's not getting worse, and that's a good thing. I have also asserted, which I believe that -- that each of these countries has a role to play in the world that's important, and that a conflict between them clearly would have a damaging effect on their circumstance and their people. I think that responsible leadership, as each of these two countries have, will address those issues in a responsible way.

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