Musharraf assures Armitage of trying to avert war keeping national integrity intact - 6 June, 2002

President Pervez Musharraf assured visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage Thursday that he would do all he could to avert war with India, but warned there would be no compromise on the honour and dignity of the nation and its armed forces.

Both sides also conferred on Pakistan-US relations and expressed their resolve for their further enhancement, with Richard Armitage expressing appreciation of the cooperation between the two countries in the ongoing anti-terrorism war.

The US official arrived in the federal capital on Thursday morning on what has been billed as a crucial ‘war-averting mission’, to be followed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to the region next week. Armitage leaves here Friday (today) for New Delhi to impress upon the Indian leadership the need for urgent steps towards de-escalation. Immediately after his arrival, the American official went into whirlwind meetings with Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar and Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq at the Foreign Office and then with President Musharraf. The Musharraf-Armitage talks - covering the current stalemated military presence on the Indo-Pak border, LoC patrols and operations against al-Qaeda activists - lasted for about two hours.

Following the talks, Armitage told reporters he had been assured by President Pervez Musharraf that he was searching for peace and would not be the one to initiate war. The United States hoped to get the same type of assurance from New Delhi, Armitage remarked.

President Pervez Musharraf, he said, felt that he was doing whatever he could to reduce the tension and made “it very clear to me that nothing is happening across the Line of Control”. Armitage said he was looking forward to travel to New Delhi Friday to continue discussions with the Indian leadership.

Answering a question, the US Deputy Secretary of State observed he was “neither optimistic nor pessimistic” about the outcome of his meetings with sub-continental leaders during his current tour. Whatever he noted from the conversation with Musharraf was that the president wanted to do everything to avoid war and “this is a good basis on which to proceed”. Musharraf wanted to do that “by keeping intact the honour and dignity of the nation and the armed forces”, the visiting deputy secretary said.

About the deployment of UN monitors along the tense Line of Control (LoC), the US official said the Indian government had dismissed the proposal out of hand. The United States was discussing all sorts of monitoring without any prejudice, one way or the other, he added. With regard to the situation on the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he acknowledged some elements had been moved but the main activity on the western flank of Pakistan remained unaffected. He congratulated the president for the cooperation Pakistan was extending to coalition forces in the Operation Enduring Freedom.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said in the discussions “both sides underlined the need for restraint, the imperative of military de-escalation and resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India”. Islamabad’s commitment not to initiate a conflict and its readiness to resolve the core issue of Kashmir and all other problems with Delhi was reiterated, it added.

Deputy Secretary Armitage was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Department Donald Camp, Senior Director Asian Affairs of National Security Council James Moriarty, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunn, Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Kara Bue and South Asian Affairs' Executive Bureau, Robert Kuntz.

Armitage told reporters his talks with Musharraf also touched on how to monitor any infiltrations of militants into the restive Kashmir Valley across the LoC. “We’re discussing all sorts of monitoring mechanisms, without any prejudices one way or another.”

Safiullah Gul PRAVDA.Ru Pakistan

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