Joint press conference of US defense secretary with Pakistan foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan. Full text.
Abdul Sattar: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is an honored and, I should say, welcome guest on a noble mission for peace in our region. He has had a very cordial meeting with the president, General Pervez Musharraf, this afternoon. Their discussions were in depth and addressed both the situation in Afghanistan and the problem between Pakistan and India. They have expressed total satisfaction at the ongoing cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, and they have, of course, discussed at very great length the situation obtaining in relations between Pakistan and India.
It is fortunate for the people of South Asia at this time that the world community, starting from the United States across the European Union to Russia, China and Japan, are all on the side of peace and are investing efforts for de-escalation of tensions and promotion of dialogue to bring peace into our region. President George W. Bush has specifically invested a lot of his time and attention to this end. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld have been indefatigable in their diplomacy for peace in our region. President Musharraf and his government have extended full cooperation in these efforts for peace.
De-escalation is obviously the immediate priority. Even more encouraging for us is the United States' policy to remain engaged in this region for a lasting solution of the Kashmir problem. Efforts need to be sustained so that the root cause of the recurrent tensions between Pakistan and India is addressed in a meaningful manner. A settlement of the Kashmir question, in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, will ensure the establishment of durable peace and normalization of relations between Pakistan and India. With these words, I am going to request Secretary Rumsfeld to address you, and afterwards depending on the limited time that the secretary has, we will take short questions. Mr. Secretary.
Donald Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, and good afternoon. We have had good meetings here today and with the president, as the minister indicated, and also with General Aziz Khan and his staff and needless to say, I thanked the president and the minister for the superb cooperation that the United States has received, and the coalition countries have received, with respect to Operation Enduring Freedom and the global war on terrorism.
I also expressed appreciation for the president's leadership in helping to work through the current crisis and, as the minister indicated, the goal of certainly President Bush and Secretary Colin Powell, Prime Minister Blair and so many other leaders around the world, is to see that the tensions are reduced, and I think that, progress is indeed being made.
The only other thing I would say is to agree with the minister's characterization of our discussions and emphasize that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, quite apart from the coalition and our bilateral relationships with respect to the war on terrorism, is an important bilateral relationship for the United States. We value the growing, constructive political and economic and military to military relationships that we have developed and look forward to seeing them strengthened each week and each month and each year as we go forward. So it's been a good, good visit, and we'd be happy to respond to some questions.
Question: Mr. Defense Secretary, this is with reference to your statement in India about the indications of al Qaeda operating along the Line of Control. A similar statement you had made back home in the U.S. as well a couple of weeks ago. We want to know what's the factual basis of your statement, number one, and, related to that, did it play itself out in your meeting with General Pervez Musharraf today?
Rumsfeld: I think what I said in the United States, and on this trip in earlier stops, is what I know to be the facts, and the facts are that I do not have evidence and the United States does not have evidence of al Qaeda in Kashmir. We do have a good deal of scraps of intelligence that come in from people saying that they believe al Qaeda are in Kashmir or in various locations. It tends to be speculative; it is not actionable; it is not verifiable, and I believe I made that clearly, that distinction clear, when I responded to a question in Delhi, I think. In any event, that is, in so far as I know, that is the situation, and I did express that during one or more of my discussions here in Pakistan.
Could I add one thing? I'm sorry: I should say one other thing about that. The cooperation between the United States and Pakistan on the subject of al Qaeda is so close and so intimate and so cooperative that if there were any -- if there happened to be -- any actionable intelligence as to al Qaeda anywhere in this country, there is no doubt in my mind but that the Pakistan government would go find them and deal with them.
Question: I just wonder if I could ask Mr. Rumsfeld whether he thinks it is possible to draw a distinction between freedom fighters and terrorists, and if so, where you will draw that line?
Rumsfeld: I think there -- that people -- let me put it this way: regardless of what someone calls themselves -- and one would think people would always want to characterize what they're doing in the most positive way -- regardless of how one might characterize what they are doing, anyone who goes around and kills innocent men women and children is a terrorist, quite apart from what may be rattling around in their head as to why they do it.
Question: Mr. Secretary, you have made [a statement] that India has progressed towards de-escalation in a very, very --
Rumsfeld: I am sorry. I'm sorry: could you please start over? I'm losing some of the words.
Question: Mr. Secretary, you have said that India has progressed a little bit for de-escalation in the region by pulling back its troops and naval ships. Do you consider, as U.S. Secretary of Defense, that India has substantially moved back for de-escalation and helping peace to take place in the region?
Rumsfeld: Well, I apologize: I got about three out of four words, and I may not answer it as well as I would have if I'd heard the whole question. And -- the world has watched as a million people looked across borders at each other, armed, and has been concerned. And as the tension has gone up the concern has gone up. And I must say that I am -- I think that the world has been, in recent days, observing leadership that has contributed to the reduction of some of that tension, although the facts on the ground in large measure still remain at a state of reasonably high alert.
So what's happened is not so much that the forces have gone to lower levels of alert status, but rather that the steps that have been announced and taken -- the indication of an effort to reduce infiltration across the LoC, the announcements made by the Indian government with respect to the movement of their fleets south, the public indication of the willingness to return the high commissioner -- and leadership here in Pakistan, it seems to me, have left the world with the impression -- the correct impression -- that we have leadership that is concerned and determined that steps be taken to de-escalate the tension.
And I think that's a healthy thing, a good thing, and I told the president, Mr. Musharraf, that I recognize that and have respect for the steps that are being taken.
Sattar: I just want to add one word that, maybe the fourth, you didn't hear the fourth word, Mr. Secretary, you said three out of four words.
Rumsfeld: Right --
Sattar: The president has said that we welcome the steps, however marginal, that India has taken which have had a certain psychological impact, but there is no change whatsoever in the capability of the Indian forces massed on our borders and the Line of Control. Therefore, there is no real reduction in the threat.
Question: Secretary Rumsfeld, having completed your meetings in both India and Pakistan, and following up on the comment that the minister just made, what is your assessment of the willingness of either side, either country, to make substantial military reductions in Kashmir, in the short term, or to enter into a direct dialogue on Kashmir?
Rumsfeld: Of course those decisions are up to those sovereign nations, and they are going to make them in their own way, in their own time, as they should. And what other countries can do is to meet with both sides and visit with them about the situation, and try to be helpful and, that's what takes place by many countries and many leaders, both in person and on the phone.
With respect to force reductions, it seems to me that those things -- first of all, it's very stressful on forces to be maintained for long periods on high alert. It costs money; it's hard on soldiers and sailors and marines, it's hard on families, and it's hard on budgets. And my impression is that we're at a point where, instead of having this tension continue to go up, we're beginning to feel the stresses of high alerts. And one would hope that the pressures of those stresses would result over time in a -- whatever way it might be manifested, somewhat reduced alert status for those forces as each side measures and calibrates and decides that they can afford to do that. But that, of course, is up to them.
With respect to dialogue, there's no question but that countries need to talk to each other. They need diplomatic relations, in my view; they need to have ways of communicating with each other on simple things such as road connections and rail connections and air connections. They have people living on opposite sides of borders in relatively close proximity, with things that need to be sorted out, and that doesn't happen when there is a breach. So clearly, if they have significant issues like Kashmir, at some point countries find ways to communicate. And how they do that, on what basis they do it, whether it gets done before elections or during elections or after elections, are really decisions for them, and only they can make those decisions. But simply looking at history and the nature of mankind, we know that ultimately there has to be communication.
Question: (inaudible) -- Pakistan, that without the blessing of United States of America, India cannot dare to bring its forces on Pakistan's borders; Pakistan is your ally, former ally in SEATO and CENTO, and you have just mentioned superb cooperation between Pakistan and America in Afghanistan. Pakistani people want to know that instead of cosmetic steps, don't you think there should be withdrawal of forces and opening of dialogue between India and Pakistan? What steps America will do?
Rumsfeld: Wow! I'm always impressed when someone can speak for the population of an entire country. I don't know quite how to answer your question. The United States is a country, and we care about the success of this country. We think it's important that the nuclear threshold not be lowered; we think it's important that the people of this country, and of your neighbor, India, prosper and succeed and have opportunities.
And if I know anything as a former businessman, it is: when there is an instability, when there is a tension, people make decisions to not invest, to not travel, to not build a plant, to not expand a plant, to not buy something, and they back off. Why? Because the power in this world of ours is not in governments, the power in this world of ours is in people. It's in individuals, it's in companies and organizations who make decisions every day of the week, and as long as there is a tension here --
When I was a businessman, I could sit in my office in Chicago, and I could decide if I wanted to build a plant in country A or B or C. And needless to say, today with a tense situation between these two countries, any businessman that went to their board of directors and said, well, board of directors, I think I'll build a plant in South Asia right now; the board of directors would say, "Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Aren't they -- don't they have forces on each other's borders? Don't they have a tense situation? Aren't they not talking?
And investments don't get made. Money's a coward. People vote with their feet and their pocket books, and their -- those decisions are getting made every day. And the people of this country, and the people of India, are going to benefit enormously as the tensions continue to come down, as I believe they can and should, in the period ahead.
Sattar: Mr. Secretary, if I may just add one word: first of all, Pakistan greatly welcomes and appreciates the efforts the United States administration -- yourself, your colleagues -- have been making in the interest of peace in our region. I think what the gentleman has said can be translated into one sentence. We expect more of the United States.
Rumsfeld: Well, then, let me say this: we keep trying to expect more of ourselves, but there is no magic wand in this world. In the last analysis, people - countries -- sort out their own problems. They can do it with some help -- and goodness knows that help's available -- but problems get sorted out on the ground.
Question: Mr. Minister, what is Pakistan's perception of al Qaeda cells being inside this country, and would Pakistan allow U.S. troops to go after those cells potentially on their own?
Sattar: Pakistani authorities are doing all that we can in order to locate and identify any al Qaeda cells or individuals in our country. We are very grateful to the United States for the assistance that U.S. agencies have provided to us in the form of locating these people, their addresses and so on. All the operations against these people have been conducted by Pakistani forces. Police, paramilitary forces have conducted these operations, and while I can't presume to speak for the secretary, my general perception is that the U.S. is satisfied with the work that our own forces have been doing in order to take action against al Qaeda individuals and cells who manage to enter Pakistan.
Question: Do you believe that it's a significant number here?
Sattar: Well, as you know, only a few weeks ago, with the help of the U.S. agencies, we were able to locate quite a few people in Faisalabad and in Lahore. And I am very glad to say that our forces conducted a most efficient operation overnight and were able to apprehend and arrest these people for further action. And we continue to welcome such assistance from the United States.
Rumsfeld: Let me -- may I just comment on it briefly? The cooperation we have received from this government has been truly wonderful. We have received -- every reasonable approach has been responded to in a responsible and a constructive and a prompt way. The cross-border operation is a difficult situation. If people can move across the border in remote locations, it is a complication, it's a scene in a difficult effort to track down people. Even there, if you think about it, this government, despite the tension on their eastern border, has kept large numbers of troops on their western border, on their Afghanistan border, enabling us to do work on the Afghan side of the border that has been very, very helpful.
So I would also add that the government here has arrested -- I don't know how many people, but a very large number of al Qaeda and Taliban. We have benefited from that by intelligence gathering information that has helped the United States and other countries all across the globe in gathering information and intelligence that enables us to work to prevent additional terrorist attacks. We've got to keep in mind what this is about: this is about people who go around the world killing innocent men women and children, and our task is to gather information so we can stop those attacks from happening.
Question: Mr. Minister, did Secretary Rumsfeld come here with a specific message for Pakistan from India in terms of something that India would like Pakistan to do? And if so, what is Pakistan's response?
Rumsfeld: Now, instead of asking Rumsfeld, which she could have, she asked you because she knows what my answer would be: that I don't talk about private meetings. (Laughter.)
Sattar: I think, Mr. Secretary, you should answer the question but I want to preface it with one remark: the government and people of Pakistan are deeply grateful to the United States for the role of good offices that it has been performing in the crisis ever since December 2001. Mr. Secretary -- (inaudible) I think Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: No, I've answered --
Question:1 No, but the mike has been given to me, Mr. Secretary. My question to you is that you were quoted as saying in the press that you are bringing some proposal for establishing a mechanism to verify the infiltration, the so-called infiltration, across the Line of Control. Have you discussed any proposal with the Pakistani president and authorities with regard to the establishment of such system?
Question: 2 Let me supplement to this question, Mr. Secretary. India and New Delhi both are endorsing the view that the so-called infiltration from across the border is lessened. On the other side, India has unleashed [a] reign of terror in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi. Mr. Secretary, Indians have arrested three political leaders who are for the political solution of the Kashmir problem. Would you care to comment? Will United States of America do something to control the human rights violations in the part of Kashmir controlled by India, and does it concern you, Mr. Secretary, that what is happening across the LoC now with the people who are asking for peaceful solution of that problem? Thank you.