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Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Minister Sattar: Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I am Abdul Sattar, Foreign Minister. Once again, Secretary of State Colin Powell has honored us by his visit, representing a country with which we have had historically close and cooperative relations. He is a welcome guest, an interlocutor. President Pervez Musharraf values the opportunity of exchanging views with him person to person even more than on telephone, and, as you know, they have had very frequent conversations on the telephone. And I want to add, so do I.
Four days ago, after President Musharraf concluded his speech addressed to the people of Pakistan, Secretary Powell was the first foreign leader who called and expressed appreciation of the president's bold decisions. He complimented the president for going beyond the crisis of the moment, for elucidating the peaceful and tolerant spirit of Islam, and serving the cause of peace and understanding in our region.
Secretary Powell knows that over the past 27 months President Musharraf's government has been pursuing domestic priorities of economic revival, improving governance, and political reform. The decisions our president announced on the 12th of this month illustrated once again his government's resolve to follow the vision of our founding fathers. We want to build Pakistan as a modern Islamic state. Religious tolerance is as much of an ideal as political freedom.
Given our convictions about the sanctity of human life, it is natural that Pakistan has always denounced terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; then, in the outrage of 11 September, and promptly decided to join the coalition against terrorism. As you know, we also condemned the attack of 13 December at the Indian parliament.
Terrorism is a scourge. It must be condemned. International cooperation needs to be intensified in order to eradicate this phenomenon from its roots. A just cause is not ennobled by killing of innocent civilians, nor can the civilized community of nations condone the use of force for repression of the legitimate cause of the people. Violence begets violence. Responsible states must act to stop the spiral.
President George Bush and his administration have been engaged in intense efforts to prevent escalation and promote de-escalation of the Pakistan-India crisis. To that priority objective, Secretary of State Powell (inaudible) insights and extraordinary powers of persuasion. We have extended to him our wholehearted cooperation. In conversations today, we have drawn attention to the root cause of the tension between Pakistan and India, and hence the need to address the Kashmir question. The United States is blessed with the unique quality of leadership to promote peaceful settlement of this issue in accordance with recognized principles.
We also shared with Secretary of State Powell our satisfaction at the progress that is taking place in Afghanistan since the interim administration took office on 22nd December. We welcome the deployment of international security assistance force in Kabul and we agree that implementation of UN Security Council resolution of 14 November 2001 and the Bonn agreement of 8 December is indispensable for the unity and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
With these words, I take great privilege in requesting Secretary of State Colin Powell to please address this conference.
Secretary Powell: Thank you very much, my colleague, and good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, Mr. Minister, let me thank you for that very powerful statement of commitment to the cause of peace and to the defeat of terrorism. My second visit here in recent months demonstrates the value the United States attaches to Pakistan as a true friend and a key partner. Our new relationship with Pakistan is not just for now; it is for the long term. And I would like to thank President Musharraf and Foreign Minister Sattar for hosting me today.
In our meetings, I expressed our appreciation -- mine, President Bush's, the American people, the international community -- their appreciation for President Musharraf's bold and seminal speech last Saturday. President Musharraf's decision to confront extremism promises to transform his country into a modern, moderate state, as the Minister just noted. This transformation will take time, but he has set a new direction that will enhance Pakistan's role in the region and in the world.
President Musharraf's willingness to take on terrorists and their organizations shows courage and leadership. He stated clearly that Pakistan will oppose terrorism wherever it occurs, including in Kashmir. Already, before September 11th, he had taken a number of steps to move his country away from extremism. And since September 11th, he has strengthened that stance dramatically.
Most impressively, the people of Pakistan are behind him. They support what he is doing. The United States joins President Musharraf and the people of Pakistan as they follow this new path. The international community has reacted positively to the steps that President Musharraf has taken. It has recognized the importance of his January 12th speech and rallied in support of Pakistan and what President Musharraf is trying to achieve.
That said, President Musharraf did not make the decision to fight extremism to please other countries. He decided to confront terrorism because he knew it was important to Pakistan and its people to confront terrorism.
I applaud not only his speech, but the strong actions that Pakistan has taken since then. As of today, over 1,900 extremists, other individuals who are of troublesome character, have been detained, requiring the registration and the reform of the madrases, banning of groups that support terrorism, the freezing of bank accounts of these groups, clamping down on their fundraising activity, ending their propaganda activities throughout the country, closing down offices. All of these are positive actions to bring meaning to the words of his speech.
We hope that President Musharraf's speech and actions to implement what was in that speech will go a long way towards lowering tensions in the region. The challenge for India and Pakistan is to demonstrate that regional issues can best be resolved through peace and dialogue, not through conflict and terror. Even the most difficult of issues can be resolved through dialogue, and not through conflict. And I appreciate the Minister's statement that they are ready -- Pakistan is ready for such a dialogue to begin.
We also reviewed the situation in Afghanistan. Together with our coalition partners we have made great progress. Both the United States and Pakistan supported the establishment of a broad-based government and a process that will lead to elections in just a little over two years. The Afghan people have benefited; the world has benefited. Although the fight is not over, Afghans today live freer lives than ever before.
In a few days, we will attend a conference in Tokyo to plan with the Afghan Government the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The United States is playing a prominent role as co-chair, but the active involvement of so many countries reflects the international commitment to peace and security in Afghanistan and throughout this region.
I might conclude by saying it was also my privilege to extend to President Musharraf an invitation from President Bush for President Musharraf to visit the United States in the very near future, and the Minister and I are now looking at respective calendars to see when that visit might take place.
Question: Mr. Secretary, you have praised President Musharraf's steps, but he has said now that he has done all he can and that India must reciprocate. What more do you think needs to be done, and are you satisfied that he has done all that he can do?
Secretary Powell: He has done a great deal in word and deed, and I am sure that he will be doing more in the weeks and months ahead, as he brings his vision to reality. And I will take to India, the day after tomorrow -- tomorrow evening, when I get there -- what I have heard and what I have seen.
I have had conversations with my colleague, Jaswant Singh, over the last several days, and what we will do is review the situation and see what we can do to continue moving down a political and diplomatic track to a solution to this crisis. We now have to start looking for steps that will de-escalate the situation. I think President Musharraf's speech was not only an historic speech, but it was a de-escalatory effort on his part.
And I think we want to start seeing whether or not both sides believe enough progress has been made that we can find ways to de-escalate politically and diplomatically with respect to words that are used and rhetoric that is expressed from time to time. Some of the political and diplomatic steps that have been taken earlier in the crisis, perhaps we can begin to review to see whether they still should remain in effect -- some of the closures that took place. And in due course, hopefully there will be military de-escalation as well.
The important thing now is for both sides to make a political judgment that the way out of this crisis is political and diplomatic, and not through conflict. We need a campaign against terrorism, not a campaign with these two countries fighting one another.
Question: Mr. Foreign Minister, would you comment on what more steps can be taken? Mr. Foreign Minister, is Pakistan prepared to take more steps without seeing some reciprocal action from India, such as a pulling back of troops from the line of control?
Foreign Minister Sattar: I think if you see the sequence of implementation over the last two years, you will yourself arrive at the judgment that ours is a progressive campaign in pursuit of the objectives that this government has set before itself. And we review the situation from time to time, and wherever there is a need for further steps, we take those steps.
I think -- if I didn't say this earlier, let me say it -- that we have an agenda that the president of Pakistan announced, I think on the 14th of October, 1999, soon after he took office. And you will see a consistency of policy and measures in pursuit of those objectives. So we have a strategy that is continuing. And as the Secretary himself indicated, I agree with him that President Musharraf does intend to keep the objective in mind and take further steps wherever it's necessary.
Question: My question is to Mr. Colin Powell. Sir, as you have appreciated President Musharraf's speech and the steps taken by him, and also there is a demand that Pakistan should take more steps. Is there any proposal with you which you are taking to New Delhi tomorrow that India should also take certain measures to de-escalate the situation on the border?
And as well as there are some extremist groups in India which are giving -- issuing such statements which are vitiating the atmosphere in this region. So are you taking up these two issues with India also, the violence in Kashmir?
Secretary Powell: On the (inaudible), I think it's important to note that there is no society that is free of extremist groups or terrorists who are willing to kill innocent people to achieve an aim of theirs. The United States is not innocent of this. We have had our own home-grown terrorists who have done this. And so we will speak out against terrorism wherever it occurs and, yes, I'll take that message to India.
With respect to what steps the Indians might take at this point, having heard the president's speech and having seen the actions over the last three days, and other actions that President Musharraf took before that, I hope to have a good conversation with my Indian associates and colleagues and get their assessment of it. And in the course of that conversation, I am quite sure I might have some ideas that I wish to share with them.
Question: Mr. Secretary, you said earlier today that you thought that the views of the Kashmiri people should be taken into account if a peaceful settlement is to be reached, presumably down the road. Could you elaborate on that? Are you suggesting a plebiscite or something specific?
Secretary Powell: No, I wasn't suggesting anything specific. I think that Kashmir is a very difficult issue, as we all know and is said repeatedly. The solution to the problem of Kashmir will only come about through dialogue between India and Pakistan. And in the course of that dialogue, there will be many issues that have to be discussed, many equities that will be placed on the table from both sides.
And what the United States is trying to do is to encourage both sides and help create conditions that will allow the beginning of such a dialogue. And in that dialogue, all the issues, to include how best to find out what the people in the region think about things, should be an item for discussion, I would think.
Question: Mr. Sattar, I am (inaudible). My question is to the attention of the visiting Secretary. Mr. Secretary, you are fully aware of the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and India, and it is not a secret that India had a very long and intense military cooperation with defunct Soviet Union, now Russia. Today, Defense Minister of India, while embarking upon visit to United States, has stated that he is going to discuss with the US authorities the expansion of military cooperation with the United States of America.
My question to you, Mr. Secretary, is that this expanded capability of India will not pose a further threat to the security of Pakistan in the backdrop of the fact that statements of belligerency and aggression are emanating from New Delhi for Pakistan?
Secretary Powell: The United States hopes to have good cooperation with both India and with Pakistan. There will be a US-India relationship and a US-Pakistan relationship. We want both of those relationships to be strong and to grow in all of their dimensions -- an economic dimension, a security dimension, educational, health care. There are many things we can do with each of those countries, and I think help both of those countries then to begin a dialogue with each other.
One element that we will be talking to both countries about has to do with military cooperation. Military cooperation does not mean that the United States is poising itself -- poising itself -- I want to be very careful -- is poising itself to try to do anything that would destabilize the region. We have been very careful with respect to the kinds of military cooperation we involve ourselves in, especially when it comes to the sale of weapons.
So I would not be concerned by the fact that Minister Fernandes is visiting the United States to discuss military issues and various aspects of military cooperation between the United States and India.
Question: Mr. Secretary and Mr. Minister, all the compliments in the world from Washington, Mr. Foreign Minister, may not change the situation --
Foreign Minister Sattar: Foreign.
Secretary Powell: Foreign Minister.
Question: That's what I said. Did I say Prime? I'm so sorry. Anyway, let the record reflect that I know that this is the Foreign Minister.
All the compliments in the world from Washington may not change the situation on the border if India doesn't believe the same strong steps have been taken that the United States does. How frustrating is it for you that the steps Musharraf is taking have been somewhat unappreciated by India so far? Do you think it's the list that is still causing a big problem, or is it the concerns that some of these arrested are being released? How frustrating is that for you?
And Mr. Secretary, since we now know you have extraordinary powers of persuasion, what do you expect to tell India that they can't see for themselves? If they don't see what's happening and believe it's enough, what can you tell them? And how is this different from being a mediator that you don't -- the word you don't want to use?
Foreign Minister Sattar: I think most Pakistanis are used to the rhetoric that emerges frequently from the Indian side, will agree with me that the reaction of the Minister of External Affairs of India on the 13th of this month to the President's statement was uncharacteristically positive. And we welcome that.
In any case, what both of us need to do is really to recognize that the tension that has been built up doesn't serve the interest of the people of either India or Pakistan, that it is in our mutual interest to step back and to see that the best road to the future is through peaceful settlement of the disputes that exist between our two countries. And in that context, may I just express a certain regret that Agra did not succeed. Had it succeeded, we would have a structure of dialogue available to us so that either side would make a proposal and begin a dialogue at any level on any subject that is of concern to the two countries.
So, in brief, I think all of us have reason to be anxious, because the forces are poised on the borders. And so long as they are in the present deployment condition, even an unintentional -- even a small incident can spark a chain of events that is not in the interest of peace.
So quite clearly, it is necessary, as soon as possible, to move firstly to stopping the escalation of the tension and of the forces on the borders, and secondly to begin a process of de-escalation and disengagement. And I want to assure you, on behalf of the Government of Pakistan, we will immediately respond to any initiative that the Government of India takes towards de-escalation and disengagement.
Secretary Powell: I think what is important to recognize here is that both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee have said that they are looking for a peaceful solution. Both leaders understand that the potential consequences of a war in South Asia are not something we want to contemplate, and both sides have said they are looking for a peaceful solution through diplomatic means.
In my work over the last several weeks, and what President Bush and other members of the administration have been doing, we have been talking to both sides constantly throughout this, finding ways that we can move the process forward. And I think we have seen some progress.
And so tomorrow when I meet with Mr. Singh and others, we will review where we are. We will review the progress that has been made and review the outstanding issues. We may have some ideas to share with them, but I think it best I share with them first before I share with the rest of the world. And let's just see if we can keep the energy moving in the diplomatic and political track while we are finding ways that will permit de-escalation, both of rhetoric and of diplomatic steps that had previously been taken, as well as de-escalation of military moves that had been taken.
Question: Mr. Foreign Secretary, (inaudible). The United States has (inaudible) position on the issue of Kashmir, and the United States has always said that it is a disputed territory and that the issue of Kashmir has to be resolved through dialogue. So would you like to be a facilitator to bring the two parties, India and Pakistan, on the negotiation table? You don't like the word "mediator," I know. You have just told the American journalists. But would you like to be a facilitator on this issue?
Secretary Powell: Would I like to be a facilitator? Oh, I see. What I would like to see take place is the beginning of a dialogue between the two parties. There have been some false starts, and the Minister made reference to one a moment or two ago. I would like to do everything that I can do, and I know that President Bush would like to do everything he can do, to get the two sides talking to one another again on all of the issues that are between them. And one of those issues is Kashmir.
And to the extent once such a dialogue begins, the two sides would like the United States or other countries to assist them, we stand ready to assist. But it has to be a dialogue between the two sides, and they have to reach out and ask for that assistance. And they will find America standing there with a ready hand. But I think there is no way around the two nations talking to each other directly.
Foreign Minister Sattar: May I just add, the Secretary of State is at this time engaged in peace diplomacy of the highest order.
Thank you very much.
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