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Ressa: Powell's agenda in India

CNN's Maria Ressa
CNN's Maria Ressa  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to New Delhi on Tuesday as part of his diplomatic tour to cement support for the U.S.-led military campaign against Afghanistan.

He is also there to urge the easing of tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir. But so far, India has rejected outside mediation and might press for its own agenda.

CNN correspondent Maria Ressa is in New Delhi, and she filed this report on Powell's visit:

RESSA: Colin Powell has arrived in this whirlwind tour to strengthen regional support for the U.S. strikes in Afghanistan. He is getting input from both Pakistan and India about a post-Taliban scenario and to ease tensions between these uneasy allies.

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India and Pakistan have had two outright wars since 1947 over Kashmir. Just Monday night, Indian military said that it did shell Pakistani posts across the 1972 Line of Control. That's the border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, and India claims [the shellings are] in retaliation for earlier Pakistani excursions and attacks. Pakistan calls it unprovoked firing at civilians, a claim India denies.

At this point, India really wants to make sure that Powell takes the position that India has, that he takes the perspective India wants.

Here's what former Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral had to say:

GUJRAL: India wants to make the United States understand that the phenomena of terrorism is not single-point-oriented. We are victims of it. And I think India will able to project to the secretary of state that America must understand that you cannot have peace in Afghanistan and terrorism in India against India.

RESSA: India has repeatedly stated that it wants the U.S. to broaden the war beyond Afghanistan. An issue here, of course, for India is the Islamic groups fighting for independence in Kashmir. India calls these groups "terrorists" backed and funded by Pakistan. Pakistan calls them "freedom fighters," and they do admit that they provide only diplomatic and moral support to them. That of course is a debate that the U.S. is now going to help decide.

CNN: Getting back to Kashmir, what are the expectations going in? Is Powell really expected to make some movement on that situation, or is it a mere sidelight to the anti-terror campaign?

RESSA: Certainly, publicly, the Indian government has said it wants Kashmir to remain just a bilateral issue, but in reality what we've seen here is the Indian government pushing to put Kashmir on the agenda. That has been their demand since the beginning, since the September 11 attacks.

The logic is, you can't have terrorism in India ... and even if you eradicate it within Afghanistan, if you have it in India, you haven't gotten to the root of the problem. That is the main point India wants to make sure is heard.

Part of the reason Kashmir has become the flash point -- as we saw Monday night, cross-border shelling remains quite common. For the last several months, it's been relatively peaceful. But again, unless this issue is resolved, India's stand is, you cannot stop terrorism.


• Gunship new to Afghan campaign
October 16, 2001

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