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22 January 1999

TEXT: INDERFURTH REMARKS ON US POLICY IN SOUTH ASIA, JAN. 21

(Cites progress in dialogues with India and Pakistan) (2710)

Washington -- Karl F. Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for
South Asian Affairs, says the challenges the United States faces in
South Asia are difficult, but it is important that the U.S. "tackle
and surmount" these challenges.

"In many respects, our major challenges in South Asia are not so much
about prevention, but management of thresholds that have already been
crossed. The most recent, and indeed most dramatic example was, of
course, the reciprocal nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan
eight months ago," Inderfurth said January 21 in remarks to the
Foreign Policy Association.

Inderfurth noted that in one week he would be traveling with Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and General Joe Ralston, Vice
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to New Delhi and Islamabad to
begin the eighth round of intensive dialogues with both governments
since their nuclear tests in May 1998. "We are making progress in
these talks," he said.

The Assistant Secretary also discussed the interests the United States
has at stake in South Asia, in particular with India, and the vision
the President and his Administration have for relations with the
region.

The United States, Inderfurth said, is "working on transforming the
U.S.-Indian relationship into a true partnership" and continues "to
remain engaged and optimistic that we will, over time, be able to
reach an understanding on non-proliferation issues."

"I could easily identify dozens of examples of cooperative activities
and actions between India and the United States, all of which we hope
will define our new partnership for the 21st century," he said.
"Moreover, it is also illustrative of the approach we envision for
South Asia as a region, with our longstanding friend Pakistan, with an
emerging Bangladesh, with Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives."

Following is the text of Inderfurth's remarks:

(Begin text)

The United States and South Asia
Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs
Karl F. Inderfurth
The Foreign Policy Association
January 21, 1999

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address the Foreign Policy
Association. Our topic -- the impact of last May's nuclear tests by
India and Pakistan on South Asian stability -- could not be more
timely.

Just this past week there was a major conference at Stanford
University, co- sponsored by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing
Deadly Conflict and the Stanford-Harvard Preventive Defense Project. A
principal focus of that conference was South Asia Deputy Secretary of
State Strobe Talbott spoke on behalf of the Clinton Administration.

Tonight's speech is also timely because one week from today Secretary
Talbott and I will depart Washington with General Joe Ralston, the
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to travel to New Delhi and
Islamabad to begin the eighth round of our intensive dialogue with
both governments since their nuclear tests. We are making progress in
these talks. As India's new Minister for External Affairs, Jaswant
Singh, has put it, we are working very hard to "harmonize" our
respective security perspectives.

At the same time we recognize that the issues we are discussing are
very difficult, of fundamental importance to all concerned and relate
to the history of a region that has had more than its share of
security concerns.

Breaking Taboos

South Asia is a region where a number of taboos have been broken in
the security realm, where conflict between the two major players has
erupted three times -- and has come quite close to erupting on several
other occasions. In many respects, our major challenges in South Asia
are not so much about prevention, but management of thresholds that
have already been crossed. The most recent, and indeed most dramatic
example was, of course, the reciprocal nuclear tests conducted by
India and Pakistan eight months ago.

The temptation in a speech such as this is to focus upon the causes of
-- and U.S. response to -- this monumental development and what it
means for global security and the international non-proliferation
regime. We have devoted considerable time and effort to these matters
since May. I want, however, to resist temptation a bit, and focus on a
broader topic that often gets lost, or at least overshadowed, in the
rather heated exchanges we have seen in many of the recent discussions
and seminars on security in South Asia.

If you will permit me, I believe it will be both useful and timely to
take this opportunity to discuss the many interests that the United
States has at stake in South Asia, and to outline the vision that the
President and his Administration have for relations with the region.
Such a discussion, I am sure you will agree, not only will better
enable us to articulate to the American public why events in South
Asia -- historically, in recent months, and into the next millennium
-- are of such consequence. It will also enable us to build a
constituency for devoting the time, attention and resources to a
region that traditionally has been, as Under Secretary of State Tom
Pickering has said, "on the back side of the U.S. diplomatic globe."
And finally, the discussion will help us to underscore, primarily to
the two major players in the region, that the United States does
indeed look at South Asia in comprehensive terms. Even if we have
occasional disagreements -- including those that are strongly felt and
involve matters of grave principle -- we will not allow our
relationships to be defined by a single-issue agenda.

Charting a New Direction

Though many Americans can easily identify India on the map and more
precisely know that the Subcontinent exists as a geographic entity,
they have trouble grasping or remembering that it truly is its own
region, separate and distinct from East, Central, or Southwest Asia,
much less why it matters. To his great credit, President Clinton
recognized early in his first term, amidst India's and Pakistan's
dramatic conversion to market economics and emerging transitions to
democratic systems in Nepal and Bangladesh, that the United States
could no longer afford to neglect South Asia, and indeed had
substantial present and future interests to advance and protect. Under
the President's watch, the State Department saw the confirmation of
the first-ever Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs,
and the Administration undertook a comprehensive review of the
Subcontinent and all of the U.S. equities there.

The result in mid-1997 was a considered decision to move away from our
traditionally narrow focus on problem areas, and towards more
cooperative, broad-based relations with the countries of the region,
to be pursued and solidified through an active policy of engagement.
We reflected upon and put into place a series of high-level visits,
including by Secretary of State Albright, which were designed to
highlight discrete areas where our interests with India and the other
South Asian states converged, and which were to culminate in the first
Presidential trip to the region since Jimmy Carter's in 1978. A key
feature of that trip was to have been a celebration of 50 years of
independence for both India and Pakistan, with an emphasis on our
shared democratic experiences.

Democratic Ties

To be sure, democracy has long played a strong role in the South Asian
context, particularly in the modem period since India's independence.
We, of course, have been warmly disposed toward India's democratic
tradition, yet somehow that never seemed quite enough to get us beyond
correct but rather chilly exchanges with various Indian governments.
On the other hand, Pakistan, whose democratic path has been less
steady, was counted upon as a partner of the United States in various
Cold War alliances and played a major part in reversing the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan.

This illustrates a trap that one can fall into in the employment of
democracy as the yardstick in our relationship with India, Pakistan
and the other South Asian states. On one end of the spectrum, we could
hold up democracy as the principal basis for our relationship with a
country like India and make the case that we thereby are natural
partners on the global scene. Under such a scenario, we would elevate
and perpetuate the use of the phrase that we and India are "the
world's largest and oldest democracies," as if the size and duration
of our democratic systems were all that mattered. From there, it would
be easy to gloss over any perceived transgressions, or for pursuing
policies that might conflict with other U.S. interests, since, after
all, India would only be acting in accordance with the will of its
people.

On the other end of the spectrum, we could take India's democratic
course for granted, and try to force India into positions for which
there is no national consensus, or that violate its concepts of
sovereignty or self-interest. In other words, there is a risk that our
appreciation of democracy in India would amount essentially to lip
service, and that we might overlook how much blood, sweat, tears and
determination it took for India to make democracy work successfully in
such a vast and diverse land.

Our task then is to strike a balance, to give our common democratic
heritage its proper emphasis without giving short shrift to other
important equities. We need to remind ourselves that India's
government is every bit as popularly elected and self-respecting as
ours, even as we try to influence its behavior or shape its
perspective on events and matters of policy. As our relationship
matures, our interaction with India will be less prone, to
misunderstandings and assume a proper equilibrium. We can look forward
to a more cooperative and true partnership, which will serve as a
healthy example for others to emulate.

About Governance

Let me add here a word about democracy, namely that it is about more
than elections and the franchise. It is equally about governance,
about securing the prosperity and fundamental rights of the citizenry.
Breakdowns have been known to occur in our country, and we have seen
it in South Asia as well. When extremists, or factions, or
sectarian-based parties are able to exert undue influence on a
government or shape a national or even local debate, the result can be
disastrous. That is why many observers are closely watching the
emergence of caste- and religious-based parties in India, why they are
concerned about the impact of "Islamicizing" the constitutional and
legal system in Pakistan, and wonder whether or not some of the recent
events we have witnessed -- including attacks on Christians in Gujarat
and deadly sectarian violence in Karachi and the Punjab -- are somehow
connected. While it is not for us to dictate the interaction between
religion and politics in any other system than our own, we trust that
today's and tomorrow's leaders in South Asia share our belief that
democracy means as much about protecting the rights of even the
smallest of minorities as serving the will of the majority.

Other U.S. Interests

There are other widespread benefits, even more immediate and tangible
than the rather lofty notions of democracy and governance I have
mentioned thus far, and these help to illustrate the broader interests
that the Clinton Administration has tried to pursue in its South Asia
policy for the past year and a half. Market economies, as we have come
to realize, tend to flourish in democratic settings. South Asia, with
the glaring exception of Afghanistan - where democracy has not seen
much daylight in recent memory -- is beginning to realize its
promising potential as a market for U.S. business and investment and
is making important strides towards integrating into a regional
trading bloc. The United States, which already enjoys pride of place
as a trading partner and investor in the region, stands to benefit
considerably through an expansion of economic interaction with the
South Asian states. And those benefits will not be one-sided; India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are all in need of foreign
investment, particularly in the infrastructure sector, and will see a
corresponding expansion in their own economies as employment and wages
rise, as productivity and efficiency increase, and as investment
dollars pursue opportunities.

From there, new horizons begin to emerge and a whole host of
opportunities for growth, development and cooperation will present
themselves. An India that sees sustained economic growth at a level of
8-9% per annum -- not outside the realm of possibility -- can turn to
problems of poverty, and move from its current admirable posture of
self-sufficiency in food and agriculture towards the eradication of
hunger. An economically-secure Bangladesh can begin considering the
possibilities for exporting its potentially enormous gas reserves,
giving a tremendous push to regional cooperation and paving the way
for a dramatic leap in Bangladesh's development prospects. In other
words, the pieces of the puzzle and how they fit are already apparent
-- potential energy surpluses in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and
Central Asia, alongside enormous energy deficits in India; a paltry
$100 million in documented trade between India and Pakistan (and an
estimated figure at least three times greater on the black market).
Economic growth, and the confidence, creativity, and entrepreneurship
that it breeds, can help to move those pieces closer together.

Indian Opportunities

While our Presidentially-mandated broad-based approach applies to all
of the countries of South Asia, it is no accident that much of our
time, attention and focus is on India. The United States recognizes
that India is the largest, strongest and indeed the dominant player in
the Subcontinent, and as such it commands a corresponding level of
thought and care. I do not mean to suggest that we deal with India to
the exclusion or at the expense of the other countries in the region,
but rather that we simply recognize reality. Our interests in India
are a bit better appreciated and understood by the American public,
and of course India's size and influence on the global scene -- in
international fora, as a leader and spokesman for the developing
world, and as an emerging market -- are well documented.

That is why we were working on transforming the U.S.-Indian
relationship into a true partnership, and why we continue to remain
engaged and optimistic that we will, over time, be able to reach an
understanding on non-proliferation issues. The horizons are boundless.
We can realistically target increases in trade and investment over the
next 10 - 20 years to reach levels that we enjoy with China. We can
build upon the extraordinary, but little known record of cooperative
science between our two nations. We should pursue a full agenda of
collaborative research, especially in life-threatening diseases such
as HIV/AIDS, plant biotechnology, civilian space applications, and
advanced information technology. We can undertake to develop an agenda
for cooperation on environmental protection and remediation, with a
major investment of time and resources in the production and
deployment of clean technologies in India.

In short, I could easily identify dozens of examples of cooperative
activities and actions between India and the United States, all of
which we hope will define our new partnership for the 21st century.
Moreover, it is also illustrative of the approach we envision for
South Asia as a region, with our longstanding friend Pakistan, with an
emerging Bangladesh, with Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives.

Closing

Let me conclude with this thought. No doubt you will think this
Administration's vision of the South Asia region ambitious, given the
gap between where we are and where we hope to go. Still, I have taken
advantage of your indulgence to explain our views not to downplay the
difficulty of the current challenges we face, but to emphasize the
importance of tackling and surmounting these challenges and the value
to be gained for the United States in doing so. And it is in that
spirit that, along with Deputy Secretary Talbott and General Ralston,
I will be off to New Delhi and Islamabad next week. Your support would
be greatly appreciated. The stakes for U.S. policy and long-term
American interests are considerable.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

(End text)