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 Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
Analysis: US ups pressure
Pakistani border guards eye an Indian army soldier on the Line of Control
Both sides have been putting on a show of strength
Jon Leyne


The US finds itself with a vested interest in South Asia, a region that could easily slip into a disastrous war.
The whole world would condemn whoever does that, and I think that is a sobering reality that both understand

Colin Powell

The US also has troops stationed in Pakistan, and its jets fly over the country on their way to targets in Afghanistan.

And if the war were to involve nuclear weapons, millions would die in India and Pakistan in the opening minutes, according to a study reportedly conducted by the US Defense Department.

America and its allies are now engaged in a determined diplomatic effort to show both countries that they have something to gain in reducing tensions and everything to lose if those tensions lead to all out war.

Nuclear fears

The US is obviously concerned about the conflict in Kashmir pulling Pakistani troops from patrolling the border with Afghanistan on the watch for Taleban and al-Qaeda troops.

Enlarge image Enlarge map

But apart from the impact on Afghanistan, Americans say that they are concerned about possible war between India and Pakistan particularly the huge fear of a nuclear war breaking out between these two powers.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell told me that neither side would benefit from starting a nuclear war.

"The whole world would condemn whoever does that, and I think that is a sobering reality that both understand," Mr Powell said.

"It is not just another weapon in a toolbox of weapons," he said, and referred to his own military experience including as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Diplomatic pressure

A procession of diplomats and senior figures has been going to the region, including the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld next week.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell issued a grim warning to both sides

It is a very deliberate policy manoeuvre. It not only keeps the pressure up on both sides but also the US and others believe that war will not break out while such high-profile figures are there.

The specific message from the US to Pakistan is clear. General Musharraf must keep his promise to stop militants from passing over the Line of Control.

While President Bush has become more direct in his calls to General Musharraf to take action against the militants, there is more subtle diplomacy at work.

As the messages to Pakistan have grown louder in public, the US has slightly modified its message to India in private.

It is putting more pressure on India to offer something to Pakistan in return.

Secretary of State Powell said that if Pakistan acts to stop militant incursions, then India should consider a resumption of dialogue and also should consider pulling its troops back from the confrontation line.

The US diplomatic strategy is to give each side something and for each side to give up something.

Mr Rumsfeld's role

In warning General Musharraf that he must stop militant incursions across the Line of Control, Mr Bush also announced that his secretary of defence would be going to region.

The goal of US diplomacy is to show both sides that they have something to gain by not going to war

There are bound to be suspicions in Washington that Mr Rumsfeld's trip might be another mark of his influence and that of other hawks and hardliners in the Bush administration.

Why not dispatch Secretary of State Powell?

For one, Mr Powell was just in the region in January, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will be there ahead of Mr Rumsfeld.

Also, India and Pakistan must implement confidence-building measures, especially in the nuclear arena, and Mr Rumsfeld as secretary of defence is suited to address these thorny issues.

Mr Rumsfeld also may present to both sides a sobering report commissioned by the US Defence Department outlining the devastation that would result from a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

He is also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. The interim leader in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has said a war between India and Pakistan would be a disaster for his country.

And of course, the US is concerned about the possibility of losing the use of military bases in Pakistan for its operations in Afghanistan and also about losing over flight rights so that its jets can fly over Pakistan on their way to missions in Afghanistan.

The diplomatic challenge

The goal of US diplomacy is to show both sides that they have something to gain by not going to war.

For the Indians, there must be clear evidence that Pakistani support for violence in Kashmir has ended.

And Pakistan wants to see not just a withdrawal of Indian troops but also a resumption of political dialogue with India.

The trick for the United States is to show the two sides the benefits of moderation while giving them enough to satisfy fiercely nationalist domestic opinion in the two countries.

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See also:

01 Jun 02 | South Asia
31 May 02 | South Asia
31 May 02 | South Asia
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28 May 02 | South Asia
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