NEW DELHI, India (AP) -- A top American diplomat said Friday that tensions had eased between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, but it was too soon to rule out the threat of a war over Kashmir.
"Tensions are a little bit down," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Indian capital.
Armitage had held talks with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad on Thursday on the first stop of his mission to try to defuse the potential conflict on the subcontinent. Musharraf assured him Pakistan wouldn't start a war.
In New Delhi, Armitage did not publicly discuss any new ideas for ending the standoff that has 1 million troops massed on the India-Pakistan border and on both sides of disputed Kashmir, but he expressed cautious optimism.
"I feel very good about the discussions in India," Armitage said. "If tensions are high, there is always a risk of war. Until that situation is changed, there will be the risk."
Vajpayee did not appear before reporters with Armitage.
But Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told a separate briefing Armitage had advised India that Musharraf acknowledged the need for permanent action to stop infiltration of Indian territory by Muslim extremists from Pakistan's side.
That has been India's key demand before it would try to talk peace with Islamabad -- and India reiterated it needs proof that Musharraf means business.
"That's something we hope to see translated into action," Rao said. "We need to check whether this is a credible assurance."
Earlier Friday, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged mortar and machine-gun fire in Kashmir, killing at least six people -- three on each side -- and forcing hundreds of residents in the Pakistani part of the disputed Himalayan province to flee as Indian artillery shells hit nearby.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. The latest war threat erupted in December.
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