(US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- Press briefing en route from Islamabad, Pakistan to Manama, Bahrain.)
Rumsfeld: A couple of thoughts. One, as different as the three segments of the trip were -- and they are noticeably different -- the NATO piece, the Gulf piece and the India-Pakistan piece -- there really is one common thread it seems to me. That is, the fact that President Bush's message on the Global War on Terrorism and the sense of urgency that's needed in the world because of the risks of weapons of mass destruction, is clearly getting through.
The one thing that you could say is common in each of those very, very distinctively different trips was that NATO has moved substantially, in terms of its awareness and interests and contributions with respect to the war on terrorism. Clearly the Gulf States -- the stops there reflected that -- and then there is no question but that you heard both and in India and Pakistan there, the extent to which they are engaging the subject.
A couple other thoughts on India and Pakistan. My wife's father used to say if you're coasting, you're going downhill. And in the case of an escalating situation, if you coast and you're not making progress -- you're not doing something. If it's not getting better, then you very likely are in a situation where it may be getting worse.
Another way to phrase it is -- after the ambassador heard me say that in a meeting, suggesting the importance of seeing that it keeps improving or risking having it deteriorate -- he said his grandfather used to say that he would picture a two-horse buggy carrying a very heavily loaded wagon and it's going up a hill and it stops. If it stops, it starts back. There is nothing other than going forward or going back because it can't stop.
Do you have the sense that they are stopping?
Rumsfeld: No. I have the sense that there is that risk and that it's worth people recognizing that and making certain that they don't -- that no -- well, let me rephrase that.
As you move towards election periods in both countries, there will be pressures within parties and between parties to do or say things. My view is that temptation has to be balanced against the wagon image.
The other thing that I might say is the subject of -- someone asked me about the shelling. It is worth thinking about the fact that there have been periods when there was not shelling. The current situation is there is artillery, mortar, machine gun and small arms fire. On the Pakistani side of the line, the populations live fairly close -- men, women and children who are not combatants. On the Indian side of the line, that's less so.
The point I was trying to make was that is seems to me that if you want things to get better, then one of the things you would prefer is that more people not become harmed. When women, men and children who are not combatants die because of the shelling across the line, the effect of it is that their families and friends are unhappy and heartbroken and in some cases, anxious to find revenge for that.
So it seems to me that one of the easy things that can be done -- since both are now in a position that they don't favor infiltration across the line -- would be to have some sort of an understanding where they recognize that it's always proper to fire in self-defense, and certainly if both sides are interested in not having infiltration across the line -- as they have both indicated -- then one would think that if firing were dropped down to zero and used only for the purpose of self-defense or for stopping infiltration, that fewer people would be killed and you could begin a process of easing some of the lingering hostilities that inevitably result from conflicts like this.
I guess that's kind of a -- just a thought -- but such that I'd have, if I had it.
What do you think (inaudible)?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know things just need to gestate, to roll around in people's mouths and heads a little bit. And we'll know. There is a whole series of things -- I mentioned a series of things there in answer to one question. And I know what it was, when that fellow asked me about dialogue.
He asked me, what are you talking about? And I said well, you know, if you have two neighbors, at some point you have to talk about a lot of things. You have to talk about roads, buildings, airports and the communications across the line of control -- and who's going to do what, when and how do you do those things. You have to de-conflict, and it seems to me all of those things are useful in getting it, in getting it not so it's going up the hill and going backwards.
With the elections, one could imagine where the leaders would feel pressured not to compromise ahead of elections for fear of losing office. What can America do to help strengthen these leaders so that compromise becomes not a political liability in the elections?
Rumsfeld: Well, you heard the foreign minister at the end use the phrase, "good offices." That is, I suppose, a diplomatic phrase that is distinguished from arbitration or mediation or micro-involvement. And it reflects more of a friend facilitating and I think that's basically what the United States has been doing. If you have the president of the United States calling the leaders of those countries, and if you have the secretary of state calling the leaders of those countries, that -- what you end up with is an accurate indication that the -- you have the [British] Prime Minister Blair, you know, and any number of other people who are engaged in one way or another.
But you end up with an indication to the populations of those two countries that in fact the international community is aware of what they perceive to be the difficulties, that there is an interest in it, that their leadership is in fact talking to the international community about these things and that for the moment, not withstanding the absence of direct interaction and dialogue, there are in fact communications going back and forth through others.
Silence, if you will, or the absence of that facilitating of "good offices" -- it seems to me conceivably would leave populations with a different impression. But I don't know.
You have never once mentioned in all of this any commitment from either side to withdraw ground troops. Nobody appears to be talking about that.
Rumsfeld: We are. That's why I, when asked the question, answer it directly -- that in fact the alert status has stayed roughly the same. There have been over the past two weeks, several weeks, maybe three weeks -- minor changes but they have tended to go both ways -- some getting higher alerts, some getting less. But if one looks at that status over that sustained period, there have not been notable differences on either side and India remains at a level of alert, depending on who you talk to, that I would characterize as somewhat higher than Pakistan's level.
Could you characterize what you have accomplished in India and Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: Well I wouldn't. I mean, they can characterize whatever they want.
Rumsfeld: Well, I think it was a good decision to go. Further, I think it was a good decision for the president to be in touch with them. I think it was a good decision for [Secretary of State] Colin [Powell] to be in fairly continuous touch. I think it was a good decision for [Under Secretary of State] Rich [Armitage] to go and in that respect, I am pleased that I went.
I think that the discussions were helpful. We've got important relationships with each. I think that all of that process has been useful. But I don't think you can take pieces of it. You know, it is a continuum -- it is not from here to there, it is a continuum.
Did Pakistan inform you about any recent al Qaeda arrests including an associate of the dirty bomber and maybe some Americans who might be al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: Did they in this trip? No.
But do you know of such a thing? These six people who were arrested are said to be of U.S. origin, possibly. There have been a bunch of very odd stories.
Rumsfeld: I have not pinned any of those down.
Have you taken any of these people into custody, U.S. custody, with either military or law enforcement?
Rumsfeld: I have not pinned any of the stories that I've seen down to anything that I have heard.
Going back to the question of the shelling and so on, just so I understand. Did you encourage them to do something like that on the shelling?
Rumsfeld: We talked about a full range of things and certainly, obviously, among them was what's going on along the line of control by way of infiltration, by way of shelling and -- you know, a full series of things were discussed in each country.
I was wondering if we could we say that you encouraged the leaders of India and Pakistan that scaling back on the shelling would be a way of starting to cool this thing down?
Rumsfeld: My instinct is to not get into the precise things that I may have talked with them about.
Did you encourage them to begin talking directly with each other?
Rumsfeld: They have had periods where they have had dialogue. There have been periods when that, for whatever reason, the dialogue has been broken.
You can't have two countries living next to each other for very long -- with a million people staring at each other with weapons -- and not recognize that there are certain things that would be desirable. One would be to have less shelling, another might be to have more talking. Now there are lots of others, and the question then is how do they do that, when would they do that, how does that fit into each of their respective circumstances, what pieces of these things do they want to move around on the table? And each is doing things -- each one has already done things, and each is thinking about things, and each will do things in their own good time.
What's next up for you regarding India and Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: India and Pakistan?
Well we've got a big bill that we owe Pakistan for purchases that we made and not paid yet. In the supplemental is a fairly sizable sum -- and we certainly hope that we can get the supplemental passed prior to the July 4th recess.
There's a series of other odds and ends. I don't mean to minimize any of them. I mean, they're all important in each country.
But when you have a chance to have these visits, things surface that could be worked out better or that we want to find ways to improve our connections and relationships. So you go back with a handful of those things that you then worry on that seem to be stuck in the interagency process or stuck in some bureaucracy.
What do you think the next step for India and Pakistan is, in view of the nature of the crisis thus far? It's a continuous situation. How do you get them to not stop but to continue moving forward?
Rumsfeld: I think they're both sensitive to the risks and I was impressed in talking to them and I think they are both asserting leadership in a way that is positive rather than negative.
Rumsfeld: Oh I am sure that Secretary Powell and the president will stay involved and the Department [of Defense], in terms of military-to-military relationships, will continue to try to work through those things where we could be helpful.
Will you be briefing the president tomorrow morning?
Rumsfeld: We send cables and then I will brief him, probably tomorrow or whenever. I haven't even bothered to look at my schedule. Depending on his calendar, it will be either -- what day is today?
Yeah, I don't even have any idea where he is. Is he in --
Rumsfeld: I suppose, as you always do, you could say almost anything you want. You can be certain if there is an NSC meeting tomorrow, or if he has time on his calendar, that I will be briefing him. And if not, it will very likely be Saturday by phone or it would be Monday when we have the next meeting.
Regarding the shelling, and the zero shelling plan you've discussed in this conversations.
Rumsfeld: Well, wait a second. I didn't say zero, I don't think. I think your goal, if you have two countries that are staring at each other, a goal would be to have less firing. And so what one might do is to say, let's have as a preference no shelling because people get killed.
But isn't it -- ?
Rumsfeld: Just a minute. But I'm a realist. I think none is very little -- if for no other reason--
When I do rules of engagement, I certainly always include self-defense and if each has an interest in reducing infiltration, then I would also say they ought to probably not only self-defense, but they ought to say, unless you're stopping infiltration, each of which would be a perfectly rational thing to do. That's not zero.
Is this one of the linkages that you've talked about on the idea that -- ?
Rumsfeld: Well, it would be probably wrong to elevate it out of a whole host of other things that are being discussed by the president or by Secretary Powell or by the ambassadors or me or whoever. But as I said, this is just a laundry list of things that each of them are as aware of as any other person who looks at it objectively.
Did either side discuss their nuclear weapons?
Rumsfeld: You know I'm not going to talk about nuclear weapons. I think that the elevation of that subject is past us and both of those leaders are managing their affairs as people responsible for weapons of that power ought to manage them. I think to get in and start discussing that isn't useful.