The United States is intensifying its warnings about the danger of war between India and Pakistan. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage leaves next week on a trouble-shooting mission to South Asia.
Secretary of State Colin Powell was in daily telephone contact with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during his shuttle diplomacy in the region this week. And the peace making effort will be continued next week by Mr. Armitage, a blunt-speaking former top Pentagon official with close ties to military leaders on both sides.
At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher used his most explicit language to date in discussing the danger of war between the two nuclear-armed South Asian powers.
"Tensions are very high," he said. "It's vital for everyone involved to do their utmost to reduce violence, lower the rhetoric, exercise restraint. The climate is very charged and a serious conflagration could ensue if events spiral out of control. So with that as a background, we're looking for Indian and Pakistani officials who are responsible for the safety and welfare of their people to take steps in that direction."
Mr. Boucher said that, amid escalating tensions, there is a danger that "irresponsible elements" could set off a war an apparent reference to extremist attacks like the one by Islamic militants that killed more than 30 Indian army dependents in Indian Kashmir earlier this month.
He repeated his call on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to take concrete steps to back up his stated pledge to end infiltration across the Kashmir "line of control."
The spokesman also confirmed that veteran diplomat Nancy Powell, currently the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, is being sent to Islamabad to replace departing ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin.
Ms. Chamberlin asked to leave the Islamabad post after her two teenaged daughters had to be sent home earlier this year under a security-related evacuation of U.S. diplomatic dependents from Pakistan.
Ms. Powell, who is no relation to the secretary of state, will serve as U.S. charge d'affaires in Pakistan until President Bush nominates new ambassador.