WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush has said that America's shuttle diplomacy prevented a war between India and Pakistan three years ago.
"2001 was the year that we had shuttle diplomacy to convince Pakistan and India not to go to war with each other," said Bush while addressing the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention in Washington Wednesday.
In the summer of 2001, India deployed hundreds of thousands of additional troops on its border with Pakistan following a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building in New Delhi. Pakistan responded with similar deployments.
With media reports suggesting that both sides may also have moved nuclear weapons to strategic locations, the world feared that the tensions could lead to yet another war between South Asia's two nuclear rivals.
India and Pakistan have already fought three wars since their independence from Britain 56 years ago, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
In May 1998, both countries tested nuclear devices and since then have been working on improving their weapon-delivery systems. International observers fear that another clash between them could lead to a nuclear conflict in one of the world's most populous regions.
To prevent the war, Bush said, the United States and Britain sent several senior officials to New Delhi and Islamabad to defuse tensions. The emissaries included U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Powell's deputy Richard Armitage.
"Powell went, and then Straw went from Britain, and then Armitage went, and then whoever his equivalent is from Britain went, with the idea of kind of talking everybody down," Bush said.
The shuttle diplomacy, he said, not only reduced tensions between India and Pakistan but also paved the way for further improvement, "and now, quite the opposite, they're talking with each other in a positive way."
Bush hoped that the ongoing talks would allow the two neighboring states to "get some sticky issues resolved, for the sake of world peace and stability in that part of the world."
He said both India and Pakistan had made some progress in resolving their disputes and offered to work with them to bring stability to that region. "We can always -- we will always find ways to improve our alliances," he added.
During the speech, Bush also reviewed America's relations with Pakistan, showing how the ties had improved greatly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
"Just think about what life was like prior to Sept. 11th in Pakistan. Pakistan was friendly to the Taliban," said the U.S. president while comparing the pre and post 9-11 situations.
"And, fortunately, our government, thanks to the good work of Colin Powell, convinced President (Pervez) Musharraf that that was not in his interests. His interests were to be working with us and fighting off the terror," he recalled.
Bush acknowledged that Musharraf has earned the wrath of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups for supporting the United States but said it only confirmed that the Pakistani ruler has made the right decision. "Of course, since then al Qaida-has tried to kill him twice. I think it confirms the fact that he's chosen the right side."
Bush praised Musharraf as "a good and strong ally" and said his administration was "trying to help him" deal with terrorist threats.
"And he's active in the war on terror... but he's got issues, just like any of these countries have got issues ... in my judgment, he's been a good, strong ally," said Bush.
He also praised Musharraf's efforts to improve relations with India, saying that he was "pleased with the fact that progress is now being made on the relationship between Pakistan and India."
As in his other recent speeches, Bush also mentioned his administration's efforts to "unravel the A.Q. Khan network" and said it was "a great success by our team and the British."
He said Dr. Khan was a nuclear scientist who was "willing to sell state secrets in order to make money."
"It's real dangerous, by the way, when you have somebody who is willing to sell information purely for money because you don't know where that information might end up. And the ambitions of the terrorist network, of course, would be to have the ultimate weapons at their disposal in order to blackmail and to harm," he said.