New Delhi, March 16: Keen to ensure that stray out-of-place comments do not derail the South Asia peace process, US secretary of state Colin Powell today said export of terror into India had to end permanently and could not be a seasonal phenomenon.
“I think it is important that this kind of activity should not only be something for the winter season, but it really has to be of a more permanent nature in order for us to see the kind of progress that we are hoping for.”
Promising he would raise the issue with Pervez Musharraf when he calls on the Pakistan President later this week, he said there was no single issue but “eight baskets” in the composite dialogue agreed upon by the countries.
“One element of this is that there should be an end to cross-border violence.”
Powell said infiltration across the Line of Control had come down significantly, but he hoped things would not change when the snow in the mountain passes splitting India and Pakistan begins to melt.
The US leader’s (picture below) remarks gather significance in the wake of Musharraf’s recent belligerent comments on Kashmir and terrorism.
On Saturday, Musharraf had said Kashmir was “central” to India-Pakistan relations and ties would not improve till the dispute was resolved. He had also claimed that those fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir were freedom fighters, not terrorists.
There is a feeling in India that Musharraf’s comments could encourage infiltration and set off a spurt in violence in Kashmir once the snow begins to melt. But Powell, sharing the Indian concern, said Washington would not allow the South Asia situation to deteriorate.
His statement also made it clear there were no takers in the US for the hair-splitting Musharraf was trying on terror.
Powell said America would not be satisfied till the entire clandestine nuclear proliferation network in Pakistan was dismantled. “We want to make sure that no residual element of this network is left.”
The US secretary of state, who landed here last evening, held wide-ranging discussions on issues of mutual interest on a visit that was described as “essentially bilateral”. He met almost all the key members of the Indian leadership, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, finance minister Jaswant Singh and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra. He also met Congress president Sonia Gandhi this morning.