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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

India, Pakistan Cool War Rhetoric

NEW DELHI, India/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have toned down their war rhetoric ahead of a visit this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who will renew international efforts to avert conflict in South Asia.

"I think the chance of war is minimal," Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told Malaysia's New Sunday Times newspaper in an interview after talks last week with U.S. envoy Richard Armitage.

Rumsfeld, in Kuwait on Sunday at the start of a tour of Gulf Arab states, is due to visit Pakistan and India in the next few days to keep up pressure on the two neighbors with specific proposals for a way out of the crisis.

Musharraf said the long dispute with India over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir was an obstacle to peace, but "the threat of war in the last four or five days has diminished."

Indian officials had no immediate comment on the remarks, but a government statement Saturday welcomed a pledge to Armitage by Musharraf to stop Pakistan-based Muslim militants from infiltrating into Indian Kashmir.

"This is a step forward," the statement said.

At least 14 people were killed over the weekend in the latest of a round of mortar and artillery exchanges across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, according to reports from both sides.

Pakistan also said it had shot down an unmanned Indian spy plane that entered its airspace on Saturday, while Indian police said they had detained a leading hard-line Indian Kashmiri separatist on suspicion of "funding terrorist organizations."

Armitage, however, said after his talks in Islamabad and New Delhi that while the crisis was not over, tensions had eased.

"When you have close to a million men glaring, shouting and occasionally shooting across a territory that is a matter of some dispute, then I think you couldn't say the crisis is over," Armitage, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, said.

"But I think you can say that the tensions are down measurably," he said, adding he now expected India to respond to Pakistan's pledge on militant incursions with actions of its own.

"I understand they are talking about some diplomatic actions which could include the return of some people to diplomatic postings in Islamabad, and some ratcheting down of some sort of military tension," Armitage said. He did not elaborate.

Armitage spoke on Saturday in Estonia, where he briefed Rumsfeld on his talks. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also telephoned Musharraf and Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh on Saturday to urge them to reduce tensions.