US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability in New Delhi, June 12
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
I am en route to the airplane so I'll make few brief comments and then probably answer one or two questions at which point I'm going to be heading for the airport.
First let me say that we had some very good meetings here in India. We met with Ambassador Mishra, the Minister of Defense, Mr. Fernandez, certainly with the Minister of External Affairs and some others, and most recently with the Prime Minister.
I should say that when I was sworn in as Secretary of Defense for the second time in January of last year I had to go to Munich, Germany for a defense conference. The first bilateral I had, the first meeting I had with a foreign dignitary was with Ambassador Mishra who was the Indian representative in Munich at that conference. That happened very simply because of the feeling I have, President Bush does, Secretary Powell, that the relationship between the United States and India is an important one. It is one we value. It is one that back in January -- February 1st or 2nd -- we made a conscious decision that it was important to strengthen. I must say in the intervening period between February of 2001 and today, that relationship has matured and strengthened and certainly -- particularly on the military to military side -- we feel that we have fashioned a series of connections and relationships which are beneficial to both of our countries.
With respect to the tensions that exist in the world, particularly here between India and Pakistan, let me simply say this. We recognize the leadership that the Prime Minister has demonstrated during this period. It has been a period that has been tense. It continues to be a tense situation. We recognize the fact that India has very recently taken a series of steps that has been useful, to be sure. For example, resuming overflights; indicating the fact that a High Commissioner will be named and returned to Pakistan; and needless to say, the movement of naval forces to the south.
We had discussions on the global war on terrorism and the fact that the United States and India are cooperating in a variety of ways in that connection.
With that, I'll be happy to stop and respond to questions.
Mr. Secretary, in meetings between did you discuss the possible use of U.S. ground troops to monitor the line of control?
The situation, my situation is I am not a mediator, needless to say. I am a Defense Minister. I am here because of the importance of this relationship.
The short answer to your question is that we discussed a whole range of subjects. I guess the honest answer is yes, that subject did come up but we came to no conclusions. It is something that needs to be discussed and thought about. It is unclear to me whether or not, to what extent that conceivably could be helpful and no conclusions were reached because it's the kind of thing that technical people want to discuss.
Needless to say, the goal is to see that there is not infiltration across the Line of Control and there are not terrorist acts. That is our interest and certainly it is the interest of all of the members of the coalition, some 60-plus countries around the world, to see that we can not have innocent men, women and children being killed.
Do you agree with India's position that in Kashmir, across the Line of Control, they are fighting a part of the war on terrorism?
Rumsfeld: I think any time people, innocent men, women and children are being killed that that is, in effect, the definition of terrorism.
Do you now believe that the al Qaeda are operating in Kashmir or influencing events in Kashmir?
The question is do I believe that al Qaeda are operating in Kashmir or influencing events in Kashmir.
I have seen evidence, well let me rephrase it -- I have seen indications that there in fact are al Qaeda operating in the area that we're talking about near the Line of Control. I do not have hard evidence of precisely how many or who or where, and needless to say there are an awful lot of people in the world who want to do everything possible to stop al Qaeda from planning and executing additional terrorist acts.
Will U.S. troops now pursue now pursue al Qaeda into Kashmir since the U.S. policy is to pursue al Qaeda wherever you find them?
We are getting the cooperation of all kinds of countries across the globe in chasing al Qaeda and other global terrorist networks and in working with countries to see that their countries do not become havens for terrorists.
Specifically in the case of al Qaeda and Pakistan, the Pakistan government has been very cooperative with the United States in helping to locate and in a number of instances they have actually captured al Qaeda and turned them over to us, which has been a very helpful thing.
Thank you very much.