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The Rediff Interview/US Secretary of State Colin Powell

March 19, 2004

US Secretary of State Colin Powell says there is no pressure on Pakistan to sign the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. He says recent evidence suggests that Osama bin Laden is alive and hiding in the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the US does not plan to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan.

In an exclusive interview with Hamid Mir for Pakistan's Geo TV in Islamabad, Powell discussed the war against terrorism and India-Pakistan relations.

You have declared Pakistan a non-NATO ally of the US. Do you want Pakistan to allow US troops to operate in Pakistan?

Declaring Pakistan a non-NATO ally has no link with (military) operations in Pakistan. We give that status to countries that have special relations with us. Pakistan is a sovereign country and we don't want to interfere in the sovereignty of Pakistan.

Do you think Kashmir is the central issue between India and Pakistan?

Certainly Kashmir is an issue and included in the agreement of January 6 between India and Pakistan. I am happy that a road map had been found and both sides will try to resolve the issue seriously.

Do you believe the Kashmir issue will be resolved in 2004?

It is difficult to answer this question. Things are moving in the right direction, but I cannot answer this question.

Despite the fact that both India and Pakistan are engaged in cricket diplomacy, the foreign offices in India and Pakistan exchange hot words on the Kashmir issue?

Let them debate the issue. I think Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf have shown marvellous courage to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Do you want Pakistan to open its nuclear facilities for international inspection?

That is a decision which Pakistan will make, but what we want from Pakistan is to work at making sure that its nuclear weapons are safe and secure, and there are no chances of leakage. We have some experience in this regard and we want to share that experience with Pakistan.

Do you want Pakistan to sign the NPT?

It is up to Pakistan.

There is no US pressure?

We always leave such matters to Pakistan.

You recently said Dr A Q Khan is cooperating with investigators. What kind of cooperation has he extended you? Are you satisfied by his cooperation?

Dr Khan, of course, acknowledged that he had been providing nuclear technology to other states. We know he is highly regarded in Pakistan for his contributions to Pakistan's nuclear programme, but the work he has done was very, very dangerous.

The Pakistan government has been investigating him and providing us information. We have a mutual goal to make it sure that Khan's network is fully uncovered. I don't think that Pakistan and the US would like to see this network cooperate with the wrong people. This is our mutual interest to end this network.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Ahmed Kasuri recently demanded that the international community accept Pakistan as a nuclear power.

Pakistan is a nuclear power; this is not a secret any more.

But Pakistan is not a member of the nuclear club?

Yes, but Pakistan has nuclear weapons. There are certain obligations for any nation who owns nuclear weapons -- that its weapons are safe. I am proud of the fact that as a soldier I presided over nuclear weapons and reduced them when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We don't want any other nation to develop nuclear weapons.

Why have the US and the coalition forces failed to capture Osama bin Laden?

He is working hard not to be found. We don't know exactly where he is. No one has seen him in a long time, but there is certainly evidence that he is alive. If he is alive then he is hiding in the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is very difficult to find someone in that area. We are looking for him, and we have been encouraging our Pakistani friends to search in their tribal areas. Our troops are also present on the border because free movement of the Taliban and Al Qaeda is not in the interests of Pakistan and Afghanistan. These terrorists want to destabilise the region.

Do you plan to send fresh troops to Afghanistan?

Our troops are already present in Afghanistan. We don't want to increase their number in Afghanistan.

Photograph: Larry Downing/Getty Images

Image: Uday Kuckian

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