|7-8||U.S. welcomes reduction in fighting following signing of agreement.|
|8||U.S. urges resumption of dialogue under the Lahore Process.|
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Kashmir?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Following an agreement to restore the Line Of Control in the Kargil sector of Kashmir, both countries report significant reductions in fighting. India says it has suspended its attacks on occupied positions in the Kargil sector; and the Pakistani military has said disengagement will be completed by the end of this week. As far as we can tell, both sides are doing what they say they are doing in that regard.
We welcome these developments, which are very important and which demonstrate the desire of both countries to end the crisis. As you may know, Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif said yesterday that Pakistan wanted peace and called for renewed dialogue with India. The Prime Minister also expressed his appreciation for Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee's statement during his visit to Pakistan in February that he wanted to begin a new era of bilateral relations.
We support these sentiments strongly, and urge both countries to resume their dialogue under the Lahore Process once the fighting has ended.
QUESTION: Has the US offered either side in this any kind of incentive that the US can provide to either country in terms of trade, relations, anything like that, which would have perhaps persuaded them?
MR. RUBIN: Well, our impression of what was decisive was that both sides recognized that further escalation was going to be a disaster for both sides. As you know, President Clinton did meet with Prime Minister Sharif. He certainly indicated that, assuming that progress continued, that he intended and would be interested in going to the region soon. But no dates have been set for that.
Beyond that, let me just say that we think that the two leaders and the two countries have made wise decisions in not letting the situation get out of control, and seeking to return to the time when they held out hope that these kind of problems could be resolved through dialogue between the two of them.
QUESTION: Doesn't this outcome, happy as it is, sort of cast doubt on early Pakistani claims that they had no control over these "guerrillas" who somehow infiltrated into the Indian side of the Line Of Control?
MR. RUBIN: There will be plenty of time for after-action analysis. At this point, I think it would be most important for us to get the job done, and have the two sides fulfill their commitments, and go through with the necessary steps to stand down from a potential confrontation.
QUESTION: I have the same sort of thought, and maybe we could approach it this way. I know you don't want to, in the midst of delicate talks, come down on one side or the other, but when the Pakistani authorities - which you just said - give assurances that the fighting will stop, right, that surely - the inference is that they have control over those fighters; isn't it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we certainly indicated throughout the conflict that we were concerned about the infiltration of fighters supported by Pakistan. So we never hid that fact, in our view. But as far as in more comprehensive assessment of precisely to what extent there is control or not control, or to what extent how this all began, I don't think is appropriate in the midst of a confrontation that is being eased to discuss.
QUESTION: One more on that. You mentioned the resumption of the Lahore Process, but many people in the United States, in Pakistan as well as India - (inaudible) Hossein, the former ambassador to Washington, have said that after what the Prime Minister of India described as a stab in the back, that is to say the Lahore Process -- the ink on it was hardly dry when preparations are being made to infiltrate. Will that not effect the prolonged reception of the Lahore Process?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that normally these kind of problems don't occur between totally friendly nations who have perfect relations, and we don't need dialogue through the Lahore Process of any other kind of effort to resolve problems if there weren't problems to begin with. There are problems; I think that's quite well known. So the fact that there will be continued problems and suspicion and mistrust is what this dialogue is designed to overcome. That's why we think it's so important for both sides to pursue a dialogue after an episode like this, if it does end.
QUESTION: Several US experts said that the time has come to change Afghani-Taliban regime or help it to have more moderate openness because the Taliban is the more - (inaudible) - dangerous for US security and also the several Central Asian republics - Turkic and Uzbek. Do you have any response?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen those particular expert comments, and I'm sure that they'll be very welcome in the bureau headed by Assistant Secretary Inderfurth, for him to examine the wisdom of these new thoughts. I will ask them to examine them and see whether he has any response.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)
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