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'We Think This Is A Very Important Speech'

Relevant excerpts from the press briefing by the US State Department, Jan 14.

'We Think This Is A Very Important Speech'
'We Think This Is A Very Important Speech'
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Question: It has been two days since President Musharraf's speech. I wonder if you would size things up for us.

Richard Boucher: Size things up? Bigger than a bread box. Let me go back and see. I am assuming that everybody saw the statement that we issued on Saturday from the Secretary, and then the statement that the White House did on President Bush's welcoming the firm decision that President Musharraf has made.

As the Secretary said, President Musharraf made a bold and a principled stand against terrorism and extremism, both inside and outside of Pakistan. We think this is a very important speech, not only for the steps specifically to remove violence from the equation in Kashmir, but also for the broader implications of the transformation of Pakistani society. And that is an effort that we think has profound meaning for the future of the country, but also for the region. India has commented positively on the speech and has noticed this.

We urge both countries to continue to work for resolution of tensions between them through diplomatic and peaceful means. And indeed, around the speech on Saturday, the Secretary himself was in touch with the leaders. He spoke twice on Saturday with Foreign Minister Singh. He talked with President Musharraf and Foreign Minister Sattar, and then you all know that the President spoke to the leaders of both countries on Sunday.

Pakistan is indeed following up on the banning of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and other sectarian groups through forthright actions against these organizations and their membership. President Musharraf has clearly stated that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorism under any pretext, including Kashmir, and we are pleased to see that his government is taking action on that pledge.

So that's where we are as of Monday. The Secretary's trip to the region will be, I think, focused on several things: first, on the issues of Afghanistan, going into Kabul to see the interim government, talk to them about the process they have underway to establish their authority in Afghanistan; second of all, to prepare for the Tokyo conference, which will deal with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, both in terms of talking to the Afghans about the conference and the reconstruction needs, but also people in the region, like the Indians and Pakistanis; and third of all, of course, to continue to work with them in the present situation, with India and Pakistan, as President Musharraf moves forward on the commitments in his speech, and to continue to work with them on looking at ways to ease tensions and move forward against terrorism.

Question: Can I ask you something about that? Two or three times -- not today, but two or three times -- you have referred to the need of both India and Pakistan to address terrorism. And frankly, I should have asked at that point, but it occurs now. Does the State Department have some arguments and complaint with India over terrorism that is not evident to me?

Richard Boucher: India has a complaint about terrorism.

Question: That I know.

Richard Boucher: And we want to make sure that we work with India as India addresses the problems of terrorism that have occurred in India, the problems that they have found occurring within their own borders. I would also note that India is an important partner in the campaign against terrorism. They have worked with us in this present instance, and from the Secretary's last trip and the meetings that our ambassadors had, as well as the meetings the Secretary will have. We look forward to enhancing our cooperation with India against terrorism overall.

And as the Secretary noted the other day with Home Minister Advani, India also has an interest and a role to play in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, given their experience there in the past.

Question: Richard, even though President Musharraf came out against terrorism and took -- or announced all these measures, he said that he is not going to be flexible on the issue of Kashmir. And the Indians, of course, have shown their inflexibility on this issue before. Are you at all concerned that the intransigence of both sides in this is just going to fester and cause the problem to just continually recur?

Richard Boucher: We think that one of the most important aspects of this speech was where President Musharraf said that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorism under any pretext, including in Kashmir. As I said, by taking violence out of the Kashmir situation, as he stated his goal was, which is what he basically stated in terms of his goals in this matter, that leaves political issues to be solved in political and diplomatic means. Now, granted, each of these governments has some very strong views on the matter of Kashmir.

We have always said we are willing to work with them. We have always said we are willing to help out, if they should want to. But, at present, I would say our focus is on looking for steps to ease the tensions and to avoid the buildup.

Question: Okay, so does that mean -- since you're just re-offered your good offices to help out, does that mean that the Secretary or anyone else in the US Government is going to be pushing the Indians to change their mind about refusing mediation?

Richard Boucher: I mentioned it because I knew you would ask, but I just reviewed what the Secretary would be doing during his trip, and that is to talk to them about the campaign against terrorism, to talk to them about Afghanistan, to talk to them about the implementation of what President Musharraf announced in his speech, and to talk to them about how they can ease tensions. So that's the agenda for the trip, not other things.

Question: Richard, can I follow up? Matt's description, of course, is accurate. It's been an intractable problem. But he is asking mechanical Questions, whether the Secretary will push or not push. Let me expand that, please. I tried the other day. You know, do you have a formula? Or to put it another way, you just said, "We'll help out where we can." Do you mean in a logistical sense, or is the US prepared to begin to sift through the conflicting claims, you know, as you do between the Arabs and Israelis and come up with frameworks and all sorts of things? Maybe the previous administration did that. But is the US prepared to deal with the issues and offer its advice?

Richard Boucher: We have always been prepared to do what the parties wanted us to do. As your colleague also correctly pointed out, we don't have two parties asking us to do this right now. The issue right now is how to move forward between the two, how to move forward on the steps that President Musharraf has announced, because we do think those steps would have a transforming effect in Pakistan, as well as in the region.

As he moves forward on those steps, we also think that's a basis for easing the tensions. That's our agenda right now, and I don't want to speculate on broad things down the road that may or may not materialize.

Question: Going back to Barry's earlier Question, you always said India and Pakistan. Now, the problem is terrorism problem is in India, not in Pakistan, but by Pakistan. Now, why you already said that India and Pakistan? Why don't you say that Pakistan must come out and they must tackle this problem so they don't have it either in India or against India?

Richard Boucher: I've said each of these people, each of these countries, needs to deal with the problem of terrorism. I think that's not dissimilar to the Question I was asked before. India has suffered from terrorism, and obviously India wants to deal with the problem of terrorism that has occurred. Pakistan is also taking steps against terrorism. We will work with each of them in this circumstance as we deal with the problem of terrorism. The fact is there have been attacks against India, which have been horrible and egregious.

Question: Is the Secretary carrying any special message from the President as far as this tension or problem is concerned?

Richard Boucher: I'm not aware of anything now. The President himself spoke to both leaders yesterday, so we will see where we stand when the Secretary gets there.

Question: And on the speech? I'm sorry. Going back on the speech, can you confirm that before -- I mean, it was a great speech, of course, no doubt about it, if he follows through. Now, what I'm asking you is that if Secretary had advance copy of the speech before he read or went on the television and it was edited from here.

Richard Boucher: No.

Question: The military situation on the ground hasn't actually changed at all. India has basically said we're not going to stand down until there is more action. Would you say that this situation has actually become any less dangerous since Musharraf delivered his speech?

Richard Boucher: We have tried all along to paint a clear picture of the dangers of the situation, and I would continue to say the situation remains dangerous. The forces remain along the line of control. The prospects for military confrontation remain high. So I don't think I can say that the tensions have eased at this point. But I would say that the speech, the steps the Pakistani Government is taking, the reaction of the Indian Government, offer a prospect for the easing of tensions. And the issue is to see all that materialize.

Question: When Home Minister Advani was here, he said that when he met with Secretary Powell, that Secretary Powell did not ask India to remove its troops from the frontier. Can you tell me, did Secretary Powell ask Mr. Advani, or has he asked India, or will he ask India, to pull its troops back?

Richard Boucher: Did he, has he, is he, will he, at some point now, in the future, or in the past? It's kind of too broad. Clearly, the answer I just gave that things have not eased, we are interested in seeing them ease, and we will be discussing that with the two sides. I think that's about as far as I can go at this point.

Question: Can you say whether this Administration thinks that India should move its forces back?

Richard Boucher: Again, we will be looking at both sides, we will be talking to both sides, as we have, about the need to ease the tensions, about steps that can ease the tensions. But I don't think I want to get in the business now of sort of laying out a plan from here. The goal is to talk to the two sides, as we have been doing and will do, about how they can ease the tensions between them.

Question: India is asking that Pakistan prevent infiltration into Kashmir, the portions held by India. Do you have any information that Pakistan is preventing these infiltrations, that there has been any change in --

Richard Boucher: I don't think that is anything that I can particularly comment on. I can't give you a day-by-day report on the situation there.

Question: You mentioned earlier in your opening remarks about the need for reform in Pakistani society. Can the US play a role in this? Is there targeted aid to achieve these ends?

Richard Boucher: President Musharraf has spoken in the past, as he did in the speech, about his desire to reform a lot of aspects of Pakistani society and to move Pakistan on a more moderate course. He talked about advancing the education system, the public education system, and other things like that.

When the Secretary was there in October and we were discussing the kind of assistance the United States could provide, especially the $600 million or so in economic support funds, what he said he most needed it for was to support that kind of expanded secular -- expanded public education program, expanded health services and other reform of delivery of services to Pakistani society.

So to that extent, yes, the United States has a role. Obviously in setting the tone, the direction, and taking care of action against extremists, that's a matter for the Pakistani Government to decide how he goes about it.

Question: I have one more, and you can change the subject. Over the weekend, there was a story in one of the major newspapers that opined that two years ago -- I guess it was two years ago -- when Nawaz Sharif had sent someone here to the State Department, and this was shortly before he was ousted -- and at that time this envoy expressed to the United States the concern that Musharraf was planning to oust him.

Is that correct? And if you don't know, can you take the Question?

Richard Boucher: I have never heard the story. I don't really know it's one I can deal with, frankly.

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