WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell conferred twice with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as the State Department said it understood India's anger over terror attacks.
Still, the administration urged India to hold its fire. "Rather than being the solution, military action in this crisis would create even greater problems," Philip Reeker, a department spokesman, said.
Powell spoke to Musharraf twice by telephone while traveling with President Bush in Europe. He also conferred three times by telephone with the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in an effort to coordinate policy.
Straw is due in the region next week. Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, will head for the area June 4, Reeker said.
"It's important for India and Pakistan to resume a productive dialogue over the issues that divide them, and that includes Kashmir," Reeker said. "An important component to this process is an end to infiltration into Kashmir, and as we've done before, we call upon Pakistan to do all it can to achieve this objective."
With India and Pakistan on war footing, the administration is seeking an end to shelling in the disputed territory and urging Pakistan to curb the influx of Islamic militants into Kashmir.
"We understand India's frustrations and anger over continued terrorist actions, but would reiterate that, rather than being the solution, military action in this crisis would create even greater problems," Reeker said.
"We've been very involved, in terms of the situation in South Asia," he said. "We've talked about our concerns about the potential for conflict between India and Pakistan and about the danger of that conflict spiraling out of control.
"Once again, I would reiterate that it's vital for all sides in Kashmir to exercise restraint to reduce violence," he said.
Traveling in Europe with President Bush, his assistant for national security, Condoleezza Rice, telephoned her Indian and Pakistani counterparts Wednesday to urge calm.
At a news conference in Berlin, Bush said he and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder spent a lot of time in their meeting Thursday discussing the India-Pakistan situation.
Schroeder said he and Bush agreed "that we have to do whatever we can to bring a peaceful solution to this conflict. I mean, we must make sure that no further escalation happens over there."
A senior State Department official said Wednesday that the United States was holding intensive talks with both sides in an effort to defuse tensions, but declined to reveal the details of its suggestions for prying the 750,000 Indian and Pakistani soldiers apart.
The official, who held a briefing on condition of anonymity, said the State Department had not concluded whether Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's pledge to oppose terror had slowed the flow of militants into Kashmir.
But the official credited Musharraf with taking a firm stand against extremists and said 800 of 2,000 militant leaders arrested last fall remained in detention.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he was trying to reach Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes by telephone to discuss the situation.
"The message clearly to everyone is that it is a dangerous situation, that our hope and all of our efforts are aimed at encouraging them to lessen the tension along the border, both in Kashmir and elsewhere," he told reporters.
Reeker urged restraint and condemned terrorism, saying it undercuts hopes among Kashmiris for a free and fair election to choose local leaders.
The territory is divided into areas of Indian and Pakistani control. The population is mostly Muslim and presumably would choose to be annexed by Pakistan.
Reeker also condemned the slaying Tuesday of a leading Kashmiri peace advocate during a ceremony marking the murder of another independence leader 12 years ago.
Abdul Ghani Lone, a moderate, soft-spoken Muslim separatist leader, had sought dialogue with India to bring self-determination to Kashmir. Reeker said he was murdered by opponents of a peaceful resolution of the territorial dispute.