Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


1-4Update on Indian Shootdown of Pakistani Aircraft/Diplomatic Contacts/Efforts
1Pakistani Missile Fired at Indian Aircraft
3Fighting in Kashmir
4Progress on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

DPB #102
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11, 1999, 12:35 P.M.

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to another near on-time performance here at the State Department, today being Wednesday. I have no statements, no notices, no announcements, only answers to questions. Fire away.

QUESTION: Another incident between the Indians and the Pakistanis. This time it looks like a case of Pakistani retaliation. What is the United States doing to cool tensions?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first let me say that with regard to yesterday's shoot-down, we regret the loss of life of 16 Pakistani crewmen and call upon both countries to act in a responsible way to prevent further tragedy and reduce tensions.

We do understand there was an incident today near the site of the wreckage, in which a Pakistani missile was fired at an Indian aircraft. We are deeply concerned that India and Pakistan are firing on each other's aircraft along the international boundary.

Let me point out that the two countries did sign an agreement in April 1991 to avoid such incidents, including the following provisions. The agreement forbids aircraft from flights within ten kilometers of the border without pre-notification, advance notification of such flights. In the event a violation occurs, it is to be promptly investigated and the headquarters of the other air force is informed without delay through diplomatic channels.

In emergency situations, designated authorities are to contact each other immediately and can use the telephone line established between the army headquarters of the two countries. We urgently call on both sides to re-institute this agreement in order to avoid further loss of life and further escalation and heightening of tensions. We have been in touch with both governments through our ambassadors in Islamabad, and our charge in New Delhi has been in touch with the Indian and Pakistani Governments. In addition, we have had conversations here in Washington with the Indian Ambassador and the Pakistani Ambassador.

In those discussions, we have urged restraint and dialogue to resolve this incident and we will continue to be meeting with senior officials here as well as in Islamabad and New Delhi.

QUESTION: Over at the White House, your counterpart, Mr. Leavy, said something a little bit different; maybe that's just what they seized upon over there. That seemed to indicate that you all were backing away from this conflict a little bit. He said that the United States is not going to act as the referee between India and Pakistan. That seems to be sort of a new message here. Is that the intention or can you clarify that or expand upon it?

MR. RUBIN: I think that is not at term we at the Department use - "referee;" we do diplomacy over here.

What our policy is, is that we have said that we will only mediate or involve ourselves in the work that is being done if both parties want us to. That is with respect to a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. That is our view.

Now, in the last analysis, we also act in our national interest. When the Kargil situation threatened to escalate to dangerous proportions, the President did meet with Prime Minister Sharif and was instrumental in developing and urging an approach that led to the resolution of the problem. So while we may not necessarily come down in each case on a factual question as a so-called referee, we do believe we have a role to play.

QUESTION: Has either party asked you to act as a mediator in this situation?

MR. RUBIN: Not to my knowledge. I think what we have done is try to make clear that we do regret this loss of life. There was an agreement that should have been implemented, whereby the Indians and Pakistanis talk to each other before a shoot-down occurred. That is our view.

QUESTION: Have you all come to any sort of judgment as to who violated this agreement? I think you said it was signed in '91, right?

MR. RUBIN: Right. I mean, I just indicated an example. I think it is also correct that the agreement prohibits the flight within ten kilometers of the border of any combat aircraft or reconnaissance flight without pre-notification. So that's clearly a problem as well.

Regardless of that, the basic point is to avoid tensions; and instead of contacting each other, to shoot down the plane is clearly not consistent with the objective of the agreement. And that is our view.

QUESTION: Well, does it appear to you, to the US, that both sides have violated the agreement?

MR. RUBIN: I think that is what I just said in response to Eric's question. The agreement prohibits the flight of combat or reconnaissance aircraft within ten kilometers of the border.

QUESTION: Both sides have done that?

MR. RUBIN: And clearly both sides have done that. I think that is as obvious as that two plus two equals four.

QUESTION: You didn't say it, though, until just then.

MR. RUBIN: But nevertheless, a non-notification is one level of problem; a shoot-down is a whole more serious level of action inconsistent with the agreement.

QUESTION: In fact, your understanding is they did not notify each other?

MR. RUBIN: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: Reports are saying that there has been military operations in Kashmir as well. Have you heard anything about that?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information about Kashmir. I think we have stated for some time there continues to be fighting in Kashmir for some time. That isn't new and that is why we have been urging both sides to not only exercise restraint with respect to these kind of shoot-downs or with respect to the firing of a missile against an Indian helicopter, but also to develop a dialogue pursuant to the Lahore Process which, we believe, can, in the end, yield progress on the Kashmir dispute.

QUESTION: Given the escalation in this incident with the shoot-down of the plane, is there any thought being given to a US envoy going out?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that at this time. I know that Assistant Secretary Inderfurth has briefed the Secretary extensively on this. I know that he has been in touch directly with the relevant ambassadors here, and I know that our ambassadors at the ambassadorial level - which is a serious way of doing business - have been working with the respective capitals. I'm unaware of any plan to send a special envoy of any kind.

QUESTION: So she has not been in touch with the parties in India and Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Jamie, can you talk a little bit about the meetings with officials here in Washington and also in both countries? Are there encouraging signs in the Administration that both parties appear willing to resume dialogue? I mean, can you give any sense of what you're hearing?

MR. RUBIN: It's hard to be optimistic at this stage. If anything, today's events are an indication that we're going in the wrong direction. Both sides continue to blame the other; they continue to make claims. The only thing I think they can agree on is that the plane was two miles within somebody's airspace. But one says it's two miles of the other, and the other says it's two miles of the one.

We don't have any ability to confirm in this part of the world with precision precisely where the aircraft was when it was shot down. We do, as I said, believe that there was a mechanism to deal with such problems, and clearly that mechanism was not used prior to the shoot-down. Instead, a plane was shot down and, as I said, we regret very much the loss of life.

We can't say we're optimistic. We did urge very strongly that restraint be exercised and that restraint be the order of the day in our meetings with Indian and Pakistani officials. We are deeply concerned that this agreement, which was designed precisely to avoid this kind of problem has not been implemented. We've been urging them on an urgent basis to work out ways to use that agreement.

QUESTION: Is the United States giving any consideration to any United Nations action on this dispute?

MR. RUBIN: Not at this point.

QUESTION: When you say you're not optimistic, what do you --

MR. RUBIN: Let me rephrase that. I do believe that Pakistan would like to see that happen. I'm not saying we're not considering that, but I don't believe we're taking an affirmative step toward that at this time.

QUESTION: Where do you see this heading?

MR. RUBIN: Well, hopefully, both sides will see that neither has anything to gain by an escalation of this conflict and that reason and cooler heads will prevail, and that the people of India and Pakistan's interests will be put above petty political interests and the interests of Pakistan and India's nations will be put ahead of any other interests and reason will prevail.

QUESTION: One of the goals of last year, following the under current of tests in both countries, of the Security Council was to implore both countries not to weaponize their nuclear capability. That was well over a year ago that that process started. Do you have any information as to where that stands?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I do know that some progress was made on the CTBT front, on indications that the parties were willing to sign the CTB and that they were moving forward on the fissile material side of the fence. We continue to work with them on the missile question and we haven't achieved our objectives there, nor on the necessary restraints. So the capability in the missile area and the capability in the nuclear area are not mated to create even greater danger and shorter hair trigger situations. So we have made some progress, not as much as we would like, and we are continuing to work the problem.


(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)

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