U.S. Officials: War Could Be 'Catastrophic'

A war between India and Pakistan would be "somewhere between terrible and catastrophic" and would destroy hard-earned improvements in U.S. relations with both nations, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Friday. 

Wolfowitz and six members of Congress met separately with Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes ahead of an international conference on fighting terrorism and arms proliferation in Asia. 

Fernandes said there was no change along the tense border between India and Pakistan. "The situation is stable," he told The Associated Press. 

The two nuclear-armed neighbors are on a war footing and have massed a million troops along their border. 

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage plan to visit India and Pakistan next week to further try to defuse the situation. 

The United States does not want to see its recently improved relations with both India and Pakistan wrecked by war, Wolfowitz said. 

"It would be tragic to see both of those positive developments destroyed by a war that would do great damage to everybody," he said. 

Wolfowitz gave few details of his meeting with Fernandes, saying he did not want to risk a misstep during "an extremely sensitive period." 

"We believe that a war would be somewhere between terrible and catastrophic," Wolfowitz said he told Fernandes. 

President Bush has called on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to stop fighters from crossing into Indian-controlled Kashmir, and Wolfowitz repeated that message Friday. Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region in its entirety. 

The congressmen who met with Fernandes said he told them India does not trust Musharraf and is angry about attacks by Muslim militants on the Indian parliament and a military base in Kashmir. 

"We all made a plea for restraint," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. 

Wolfowitz also met with Indonesian Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil Friday and said the Indonesian military must curb human rights abuses and ensure civilian control. Even so, Wolfowitz supports resuming U.S. aid to the Indonesian army — aid that has been banned because of human rights violations in East Timor and other regions. 

Wolfowitz has said U.S. support for the Indonesian military can help teach Indonesian officers more respect for human rights and democracy. 

"If there's going to be effective democratic control of the military in Indonesia there needs to be reform," said Wolfowitz, a former U.S. ambassador to Jakarta. 

Congress is considering an anti-terrorism bill that would send $8 million to Indonesia to create a police unit to fight terrorists, but lawmakers so far have not approved the closer military cooperation. 

Another member of the congressional delegation to Singapore, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said supporting the Indonesian military is important to preserve democracy and help in the war on terrorism. 

Hagel and Reed said Congress may be willing to lift some of the restrictions on military aid if Indonesia's military shows it has put human rights violations behind it. 

After meeting Wolfowitz, Matori said Indonesia is committed to fighting terrorism and welcomed financial help from the United States. But he said U.S. troops should not enter Indonesia. 

"To help Indonesia fight terrorism, it is not necessary to have American soldiers on our soil," Matori said. 

Jakarta has consistently rejected accusations by the international community that it has failed to arrest Islamic militants operating on its soil. Neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines have detained dozens of suspected militants, several of them Indonesians.