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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2002 > July

Press Briefing with Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inam ul Haq

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Islamabad, Pakistan
July 28, 2002

FOREIGN MINISTER UL HAQ: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being with us this evening when we have the Secretary of State of the United States, Mr. Colin Powell, with us. Itís my pleasure to extend a very warm welcome to him, in you presence, which I did earlier also when we met and to his delegation. You would recall that he visited Pakistan in October and January, as well, and we hope that he will be able to visit us soon again. I was just thinking to myself that he is probably collecting a lot of frequent-flyer miles in his travels around the world these days, but we look forward to his visits in the future, as well.

Pakistan deeply values the relationship that it has with the United States. This relationship is friendly; itís wide ranging; itís cooperative and itís enduring. Our relations are also an important factor of stability and peace and security in South Asia. Our discussions this afternoon were characterized by understanding and shared perceptions on important issues, and we pledged to work together to further consolidate our bilateral relations in all areas. Secretary Powell also called on the President and had a very relaxing lunch with him over which discussions between the two sides continued.

The situation in South Asia was reviewed in some depth. We deeply appreciate the United States engagement and the personal involvement of President Bush and Secretary Powell in defusing tensions in South Asia and for their efforts to promote peace and stability in this region. Pakistan has taken substantive steps for the reduction of tensions between India and Pakistan. We believe it is time for military de-escalation and the resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the core issue of Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir, as well as all other outstanding issues and differences between the two countries. We appreciate the role that the United States is playing in achieving this very desirable goal. Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, my colleague, for your warm welcome, and let me, in kind, thank you and President Musharraf for the hospitality that youíve shown to me and the members of my delegation. This is my third trip in the last nine or so months, and I look forward to my next trip, and I hope on that occasion I will be able to do more than just four hours or a brief overnighter.

As I have stressed in my meetings today, the United States is doing everything it can to build a vibrant bilateral relationship with Pakistan. The United Statesí interest in Pakistan is not just for today or tomorrow, but for the long haul. It is not driven solely by the need to secure Pakistan's assistance in the war against terrorism; instead, US engagement with Pakistan stems from a recognition of its significance as an influential Muslim country and as a key regional player. We are working with Pakistan to promote economic reform and long-term development, through bilateral channels as well as the international financial institutions. Our bilateral aid package to Pakistan this fiscal year alone is over one billion dollars, and we have just reopened an office in Pakistan of the United States Agency for International Development to support a number of initiatives, including Pakistan's efforts to reform its education system and prepare its young people for success in the 21st century.

Pakistan's democratization is a key building block for our broad bilateral relationship. We welcome President Musharraf's commitment to hold elections, scheduled now for October 10th, and we also are sure and expect that they will be free and fair. We also hope that all the political parties will participate. America can have no closer partnerships in the world than those we forge with fellow democracies.

Some weeks ago, the prospect of war between India and Pakistan was very real. Thanks to the efforts of the international community, but especially the efforts of the parties themselves, tensions have been reduced. Both sides have reaffirmed their desire for a peaceful political solution to the problems that exist. We must continue down this path, and the United States - Mr. Minister, I assure you - will travel this road with you. The United States views Pakistan's assurances that it would permanently cease infiltration activity across the Line of Control as an important commitment. We also look to India to take further de-escalatory actions as Pakistan makes good on its pledges.

Itís time to make regional stability permanent. Kashmir is on the international agenda. The United States will extend a helping hand to all sides so that they can achieve a more peaceful, less divisive future. The problems of Kashmir cannot be resolved through violence, but only through a healthy political process and only through dialogue between the parties. We welcome India's commitment to hold free and fair elections, as well, and we believe an inclusive election, meeting these standards in Kashmir, can serve as a first step towards peace and reconciliation. We look forward to concrete steps by India to foster Kashmiri confidence in the election process, permitting independent observers and allowing all parties to participate, and releasing from detention those who wish to be a part of that process would be helpful in this regard. All parties must do their part to ensure that the upcoming elections can be held in safety and without interference from those who would like to spoil those elections. If Kashmiris want to run or vote in the elections, they should be allowed to do so without endangering their lives.

That said, elections alone cannot resolve the problems between India and Pakistan, nor can they erase the scars of so many years of strife. They can, however, be a first step in a broader process that begins to address Kashmiri grievances and leads India and Pakistan back to dialogue. Only a productive and sustained bilateral dialogue on all issues, including Kashmir, will prevent future crisis and finally bring peace to the region. We are committed to staying engaged, in the months and years ahead, helping both parties resolve their differences so that everyone in the region can live in dignity, prosperity and security.

I would like again to thank President Musharraf and members of his government and Ambassador Minister Haq for the hospitality that we have been extended during this visit. We have established an open, trusting and mutually productive relationship, and one that I look forward to continuing to build upon in the future. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have been quoted as saying that while visiting this part of the world, India and Pakistan, you have brought some fresh proposals for the resolution of the Kashmir problem. Have you shared any fresh proposal on the issue of Kashmir and for its resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not specifically on Kashmir. This is an issue thatíll have to be resolved between the two parties. And the two parties will have to, in due course, when they enter a dialogue, lay out the terms of reference for that dialogue and the position that each of them will take into that negotiation and that discussion. The United States can facilitate the start of a dialogue, but with respect to agenda and action plans for a solution, the two parties will have to resolve that. To the extent that, at that time, if they wish to share ideas with us, we would be more than happy to respond to any ideas that might come from either side in the course of their discussion and dialogue.

QUESTION: You just outlined, here and in Delhi, several specific steps you hope the Indians can take, including release of political prisoners, the allowing of monitors of the elections in Kashmir. When you were in Delhi you acknowledged that although infiltrations have gone down, they havenít completely stopped. President Musharraf greeted you here today by saying that he felt he had done all he needed to do to stop them, and that they have been stopped. Did you ask him to do more in that vein today? What did you ask him to do? What did he say that he felt he could do?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think in Delhi and, as well, in my statement just now, I made a reference to observers who should have free access to go into Kashmir and look at the elections, as opposed to a formal monitoring process, and I do believe that those who can play a role in the election who are currently being detained should be released. You all heard President Musharraf's assurance that he has stopped the infiltration. He reaffirmed that to me again in our meeting, as did other members of his staff who were present in our meetings. Obviously, as you well know, the Indians have a different view as to whether or not the infiltration across the line of control has stopped. Everybody agrees that it has gone down -- some say significantly; some say itís only temporary and not yet significant. With respect to the US position, we are monitoring this carefully. We still are not able to say that they have been stopped, although they have gone down. But we will be watching this very carefully and assessing the points of view of the two sides as we move forward.

At the moment there is a difference of opinion with respect to whether or not it is ended or not. The important thing to take note of is the fact that the tension has gone down significantly, and I think even the Indians acknowledge that the degree of cross-border infiltration has gone down. Quantifying it and whether it is at zero or something above zero, I think, is the challenge for us as we move forward. In my discussions with the President and with the Minister, I reemphasized the need to do everything possible to make that the case. We appreciate the assurances once again, the assurances that President Musharraf has given to me on previous occasions, and which President Bush has received as well and weíll be watching closely to see what is actually happening on the ground.

QUESTION: At your press conference you said that cross-border infiltration must come to an end for conditions to be created for India-Pakistan dialogue. Now there is this problem, two problems of verifying; one is verifying end of infiltration - who certifies this? And the other is that whether it is possible to put a complete end to it. Even your own Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, said, given the mountainous terrain, it is not possible to completely put an end to infiltration. So does your statement not, in a way, give license to India to not begin a dialogue?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the dialogue will begin when the two sides come into agreement that it is time for the dialogue to begin. The United States cannot impose the beginning of a dialogue on either of the parties. They will have to decide when they believe conditions are appropriate for dialogue.

I think, however, that if the cross-border infiltration goes down to a point where anybody reasonably observing whatís happening across the line of control can come to the conclusion that, yes, it has ended - with the exception that there can always be some rogue activity taking place that is not under control of anyone and that you just may have to understand will happen from time to time - but if there is a point reached where anybody observing from the outside could say clearly, every effort is being made on the part of the Pakistani government to bring this to an end, and we can now see it; we accept the assurances but now we can see the actual evidence - then I think it would be easier for both sides to agree that it is time to begin the dialogue.

Another point of view is that letís begin the dialogue now. Why wait for this? Why should this be the condition upon which to base the dialogue? At the end of the day it has to be the two parties themselves who agree that the time has arrived for dialogue. I hope that time is in the not-too-distant future.

The evidence of cross-border movement indicates that it is going down. The Indians acknowledge that, but they are concerned as to whether it is permanent, and there is an interest with respect to the infrastructure for all of that. And so I think itíll take us some more time to observe action on the ground, and I am very pleased that I leave here today with further assurances from President Musharraf that it is ended.

QUESTION: You just mentioned that America canít force India and Pakistan to come on the dialogue table. My question is that it is the track record of the United States of America that she has got implemented the resolutions of the United Nations in the different areas of the world. What about the resolutions on Kashmir, whether the United States of America will get implemented the resolutions of the United Nations regarding Kashmir? Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thereís a long history with respect to Kashmir that goes back these many years, fifty-five years, and there are different points of view as to what is binding, what is not binding, what is appropriate, what is not appropriate.

But now, year 2002, July, itís going to require good faith on the part of both sides to begin a dialogue with each other on all issues, to include Kashmir, and I am hopeful that if we keep moving in the direction weíve been moving in the last couple of months, where the tension is going down, where there have been some preliminary de-escalatory steps - and if we keep moving down that road and keep trying to create bridges of communication and good faith between the two sides, I think the possibility of a dialogue in the near future is something that can be achieved.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that democratization in Pakistan was a building block. What, then, do you think about the constitutional amendments that have been proposed in this country, and do you think that it would serve democracy if Benazir Bhutto were allowed to run in the election? And Mr. Minister, could you also comment on this subject? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the constitutional amendments, we had a very long discussion about the amendments with President Musharraf at lunch, and he presented the rationale for these amendments, why theyíre being proposed in the way they have been proposed, with a rather full description of Pakistan's political development and the state of democratization, and he also noted that the amendments are controversial and are being debated now by the various political factions within Pakistan and among the Pakistani people, and judgments will be made in the course of this debate. With respect to who might or might not participate in upcoming elections, I do not have a point of view on that.

MINISTER UL HAQ: The only thing that I would like to add is, as the Secretary of State has said, the package of the constitutional amendments that has been made public is a proposal of the government. It is under debate at present. The President is consulting a number of political parties regarding these amendments. We have not yet arrived at a closure to this debate.

At the end of this process the government will assess the discussions that have been taking place, the changes that are required to be made in the proposed package, and come up with a final package. And before that it would be too early to assess the impact of these amendments on the future of democracy in Pakistan.

In any event, as the President has time and again emphasized, these amendments are primarily designed to strengthen democracy and to ensure that martial law is not resorted to in the future.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, as the Secretary has placed a great emphasis on the upcoming election, the local election in Kashmir, does Pakistan believe that the conditions exist in Kashmir for free and fair elections? And will such elections ever take the place of the plebiscite that you and many - that at least some - in Kashmir are demanding?

MINISTER UL HAQ: Let me put it this way. First Iíll address the second part of your question. Elections under the Indian constitution, and while India is in occupation of their territory, cannot take the place of a plebiscite. That has been so stated by the UN Security Council itself in two resolutions. One was Resolution 91, which was adopted in 1951, and the second was Resolution 122, which was adopted in 1957. And they put the issue in clear perspective, and they state that these elections cannot be a substitute for the plebiscite.

As regards the first part of your question regarding the elections, what we have seen in the past is that these elections have been consistently - even according to Indian writers, commentators and intellectuals - been massively rigged. We do not know whether the future elections will be similarly rigged or not, because every time, of course, no government will ever admit to saying that it is not going to hold fair elections.

It is for the Kashmiri people to decide whether they want to participate in these elections or not. The Government of Pakistan has no means of either preventing or encouraging these elections. It is the Kashmiri people who have boycotted these elections in the past, and it is their decision which will determine whether these elections are successful or not. By their non-participation in the elections on previous occasions, the Kashmiri people have clearly demonstrated their total alienation from the Indian government and its electoral processes. That is what I would like to say for the time being.

Thank you very much.

Released on July 28, 2002

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