WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) -- The United States is to propose a joint U.S.-British force to monitor the Line of Control that divides the dispute Kashmir valley between India and Pakistan, a British newspaper reported Thursday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will propose the plan to send this force to the region when he visits the subcontinent next week, The Independent, London, reported.
According to the report, Washington believes that such a force will be able to defuse the tensions over Kashmir which have brought South Asia's two nuclear rivals -- India and Pakistan -- close to war.
The contingent, which will include 500 U.S. and British troops, will work as "a verification force" to ensure that cross-border movement of militants into Indian Kashmir stops.
The United States will provide helicopters for this force, which would work alongside Indian and Pakistani military, sources in Washington told the British newspaper.
India has long complained that militants entering Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side carry out terrorist attacks inside India. One such attack on the Indian parliament on Dec. 13 brought more than 1 million troops along the border, stirring fears of a nuclear conflict in one of the world's most populous regions.
U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders have told India and Pakistan that the international community cannot allow them to fight a nuclear war, as it would have disastrous consequences for the whole world.
On Wednesday night, Bush telephoned Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to impress on them the need to "take steps to reduce the risk of war."
The report said that Washington and London expect the Pakistani president to welcome this proposal, as it would allow him to stop cross-border movement of militants without annoying elements within his establishment who sympathize with the Kashmiris.
Even India may accept this suggestion despite its opposition to internalizing the Kashmir dispute, said the report quoting official sources in the two Western capitals.
India describes the Kashmir dispute as an internal problem and refuses to involve outside powers.
India may still support a British and American force because its role would be strictly defined and would make it harder for militants to infiltrate, the report said.
An Indian proposal for joint patrols by Indian and Pakistani soldiers was rejected Wednesday by Pakistan.
Rumsfeld, on a visit to London Wednesday, highlighted the need for urgent action. "We have a stake in those two countries not setting themselves back. The world has an interest in this," he said.