NEW DELHI – After helping India and Pakistan pull back from a dangerous confrontation this spring, Secretary of State Colin Powell is prodding the two nuclear rivals to open a dialogue in hopes of resolving their differences over Kashmir.
Shortly before Powell's arrival in the capital Saturday night, seven people died in attacks inlong the cease-fire line.
Powell held talks with Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and planned to meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad on Sunday.
Powell said he was not expecting any breakthroughs during his trip. He said both sides recognize the need for a dialogue and suggested that proper timing for setting up talks is critical.
In advance of Powell's stop, India said it had "major concerns" about continued infiltration by Islamic militants into Indian-held Kashmir. Powell suggested he had information about that issue and planned to share with Indian officials. He gave no details.
Musharraf promised last month to end permanently all infiltration into the Indian sector of Kashmir from Pakistan.
Sinha, in a television interview Friday, said, `There must be a decisive, complete, a permanent end to this cross border terrorism. Only then shall we be in a position to resume our dialogue with Pakistan."
Powell, speaking to reporters en route to India, said he was pleased by the reduction in tensions over the past six weeks. He said he was making a visit now to see what both sides might be willing to do to avoid going down the "escalatory ladder" again.
The secretary also will travel to six countries in Southeast Asia over the next week.
In Brunei, he will join with other Pacific Rim foreign ministers. Recent conciliatory statements by North Korea raised the possibility of a meeting in Brunei between Powell and North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun.
Powell said he welcomed Pyongyang's interest in opening a dialogue; there have been no substantive discussion between the two sides since late in the Clinton administration.
During his talks in New Delhi and Islamabad, Powell said he planned to discuss with both sides when a renewed dialogue might be appropriate.
"Will it be when the escalation goes down? he asked. "Will it be when there is greater assurance that there's no cross-border infiltration? Will it be when the Kashmiri elections are over?"
The elections in the predominantly Muslim region will be held in either September or October.
India and Pakistan have placed some 1 million troops along their frontier and a series of attacks by suspected Pakistan-based militants nearly pushed the country to a fourth war last month.
India accuses Pakistan of arming, training and funding the Islamic insurgents who have been fighting since 1989 for Indian-controlled Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan. More than 60,000 people have died in the fighting in India's only predominantly Muslim state.
Pakistan says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the guerrillas.
Powell had planned to have dinner with Sinha but that plan was scrapped after the death Saturday of India's Vice President Krishan Kant. Instead, Powell and Sinha had a one-on-one meeting.
Powell said he planned to encourage Sinha to hold "free, open, fair, inclusive elections in Kashmir and to permit an international presence."
The Indian official said in a television interview, the elections will be free. "Is there any country in the world which can compare the track record of India as far as elections are concerned? he asked. "There is no reason for anyone to question the democratic credentials of India."
He offered similar assurances Saturday night during a photo session with Powell before they met. Powell said he will encourage Musharraf to do everything to make sure that "nothing is done which would disturb these elections."