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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

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Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #70
FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1999, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

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QUESTION: Can you say something about what the US assessment is about the situation in Kashmir and around the line of control? Is it expecting further escalation? And secondly, is the US thinking of sending any special observers there, other than the diplomatic efforts that are already going on?

MR. RUBIN: Indian air strikes and ground attacks continue against positions occupied by infiltrators from Pakistan that are in India's side of, but very close to, the line of control in Kashmir. An Indian helicopter was reportedly shot down today on the Indian side of the line of control. This fighting is the most serious in some time in Kashmir, and its proximity to the line of control makes it of grave concern and great concern to the United States. India has said it will limit its attacks to its side of the line of control, but has every intention of dislodging the militants there, who are threatening a key road to northern Kashmir.

Senior American diplomats in India and Pakistan are in touch with host government officials in India and Pakistan to express our strong concern about this matter, to urge them to show restraint and prevent the fighting from spreading, and to urge both countries to work together to reduce tensions. Assistant Secretary of State Inderfurth gave the same message to the Pakistani and Indian ambassadors yesterday.

The continued fighting underscores the need for India and Pakistan to resolve their differences. We hope they will be able to do this quickly in the context of the recent Lahore summit. We understand that there have been a number of conversations between Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Sharif. We believe that Indian and Pakistani military and political leaders need to be in touch so there are no misunderstandings and miscalculations. We think they should support bilateral diplomatic efforts to pull their countries back from the danger of a heightened and far more dangerous conflict.

Our position on Kashmir is well known. At this time, there are no plans to send a US envoy to the region. And with respect to where exactly the plane was, we are unable to establish whether Indian aircraft have or have not crossed the line of control.

QUESTION: Do you have an independent assessment about the genesis of this problem -- how the infiltrators came to be on the Indian of the line of control? They are well-armed. Today they used a Stinger missile against the helicopter. Pakistan says that we don't know how these guys came to be; they must have traveled through Pakistani territory. Do you have any comment on this?

MR. RUBIN: We have concern about not only the source of the conflict, but the results of the conflict. We have expressed those concerns directly to the governments involved, and I'm not sure I want to escalate the situation further by publicly describing everything we've said. But we do have our own view as to how this situation developed. But that doesn't excuse heightened action by the other side, either.

QUESTION: Do you approve of a country defending the territory under its control?

MR. RUBIN: We think both sides, India and Pakistan, should show restraint, understanding the grave risks they are posing to their people and the world by the potential for an escalation, and that both sides should show great restraint in a situation like this.

QUESTION: This is an obvious question by now. Are you concerned that this might lead to nuclear strikes between these two countries? What's the likelihood of that? Is that what you mean when you say grave concerns about escalation?

MR. RUBIN: I think any time that India and Pakistan, who have fought wars in the past, have conflict between them, we are gravely concerned. That concern is only heightened by recent activities in the last year or so, but I was not specifically referring to that.

QUESTION: Have you received any source of assurances from either side that they would not resort to the nuclear option in this conflict?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't be able to comment on diplomatic discussions of that kind.

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(The briefing concluded at 2:05 P.M.)

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