News

USIS Washington 
File

25 May 1999

TEXT: INDERFURTH 5/26 SENATE STATEMENT ON U.S., INDIA RELATIONS

(Says building stronger relationship should be high US priority)
(2240)

Washington -- Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
Karl F. Inderfurth spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations
Subcommittee May 25 about U.S. and India relations.

Security concerns strain relations between the United States and
India, Inderfurth explained. "I should stress that since the time of
India's nuclear tests, our two countries have made progress toward
understanding each other's security considerations, but we have yet to
see the concrete actions taken that could help to reconcile our
differences," Inderfurth said. He then added, "our concern about
further missile tests by India and Pakistan remains." The United
States seeks "not simply to return to the situation in which we found
ourselves on May 10, 1998. We desire to raise our bilateral engagement
to a new level of intensity, breadth and depth."

Inderfurth noted that the government of AB Vajpayee narrowly lost a
vote of confidence and U.S. India relations will pause until the new
government comes to office this fall. He said, "we will work with any
government that emerges on the many important items on our agenda with
India. Obviously, non-proliferation is currently our central concern."
Despite last year's nuclear tests, "we still hope that we will be able
to carry out President Clinton's goal set in 1997 to deepen our
engagement and establish the broad-based relationship I believe we
both seek," he said. In fact, quoting Prime Minister Vajpayee,
Inderfurth said that the United States and India are "natural allies."

On the issues of Pakistan and China, the United States encourages
independent cooperation and resolution. Concerning relations with
Pakistan, Inderfurth noted the recent Lahore Summit, "in which the
Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers displayed both foresight and
courage in establishing a framework for bilateral cooperation and
reconciliation."

Senator Sam Brownback (Republican from Kansas), who chairs the Senate
Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian
Affairs, stressed the importance of ties with India. "The U.S. has
real and legitimate political, economic and security interests in
India and we need to understand and engage with India on all levels as
soon as possible. Seizing the opportunity that we have to build
greater ties with India should be one of our main foreign policy
goals. We are the two most populous democratic nations in the world.
Our relationship should be based on shared values and institutions,
economic collaboration including enhanced trade and investment and the
goal of regional stability across Asia," the Senator said.

"While security concerns are a vital issue, I do not believe they
should be the only issue on which we deal with a country which is the
largest democracy in the world. Moreover, it is not even certain the
CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] will be ratified in the U.S.
Senate. It is important to try to get both India and Pakistan to get
their nuclear programs in line with international norms, but it should
not be the only issue," Brownback stated.

Following is the text of Inderfurth's statement before the Committee:

(Begin text)

Statement by Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl
F. Inderfurth
Before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East and
South Asia
May 25, 1999

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased for the opportunity to discuss with you and
your colleagues today our view of recent political developments in
India. I want to thank you and Senator Wellstone for your continued
interest in this critical region.

Indian Democracy

India is one of the world's most intense democracies. Some two thirds
of the registered voters cast their ballots; dozens of political
parties scattered across the ideological spectrum compete for the
support of over 600 million voters; India's very free and very lively
press devotes most of its attention to politics. Underneath the sound
and furry of partisan politics in India is a firm foundation sustained
by the strength of the institutions and traditions that permit people
aggressively to advocate their views and push their interests.

This adherence to rules was demonstrated in recent developments in
India. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee followed the President's
recommendation for a vote of confidence when his coalition government
lost the support of a key ally; he subsequently resigned when he lost
by one vote -- 270-269. When it became apparent that no party could
put together a parliamentary majority, President Narayanan dissolved
Parliament and ordered the independent Election Commission to set the
dates for new parliamentary elections. He also asked Prime Minister
Vajpayee to remain in a caretaker capacity until a new parliament is
sworn in. The Election Commission has announced that elections will
take place over several days in September and early October. A new
government should be in place by mid-October.

The coming elections will be India's third, and the next government
will be India's sixth, within a three year period. India has had seven
governments since 1989. The only one to serve its full five-year term
in that period was that of Prime Minister Rao from 1991-1996. These
rapid changes in government are a sign of major shifts in the social
basis of Indian politics, but they also indicate the fundamental
soundness of the institutions of governance: the parliament, the
presidency, the judiciary and, above all, the Constitution. Throughout
this period, the military has remained scrupulously outside the
political process; the military has been firmly under civilian control
since India's independence in 1947.

The rise of coalition politics in India has coincided with the growing
assertiveness of groups formerly at the bottom of the socio-economic
ladder. Disadvantaged groups have learned that numbers count in a
democracy, and they have forced the major political parties to pay
attention to their interests. When established political parties fell
short of expectations, these groups have started their own political
parties. One of their most persistent demands has been an expansion of
India's policy of giving preferential treatment to the country's most
disadvantaged groups. Inscribed in India's Constitution is a quota
system for society's most dispossessed -- the Dalits. There are
pressures to expand the notion of quotas even further and that
includes special provisions for the guaranteed representation of women
at all levels of the political system. The New York Times had an
excellent front page story on May 3 by Celia Dugger about a low caste
woman who occupied the highest elective position in a small village in
India's largest state. She and thousands of women like her across this
vast country are paving the way for a further transformation of Indian
society.

The U.S. Response

Mr. Chairman, with this devolution and diffusion of political power,
it becomes imperative that we maintain close contacts with all the
major political parties in India, to ensure that our message is fully
understood and our interests effectively pursued. Ambassador Celeste
and his predecessors have led our mission in India in pursuing this
goal, and we are well served by the presence of three consulates in
the other major regions of the country which focus on regional trends
and issues. I and other Department officials have taken care to meet
with leaders of Congress and other opposition parties on trips out to
the field. Deputy Secretary Talbott has consulted with the head of the
Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, and other national leaders, including
former Prime Minister I.K. Gujaral, during his visits to Delhi in the
course of his eleven-month old security dialogue with Foreign Minister
Jaswant Singh. I am confident that, whatever government emerges from
the current political process, we will be well prepared to engage
immediately.

More to the point, we will work with any government that emerges on
the many important items on our agenda with India. Obviously,
non-proliferation is currently our central concern. Our dialogue over
the past eleven months has been dominated by the global reaction to
India's -- and then Pakistan's -- nuclear tests. While there is still
much work to do in that area to enable us to restore the bilateral
relationship we had in May 1998, before the nuclear tests and the
imposition of Glenn sanctions, we still hope that we will be able to
carry out President's Clinton's goal set in 1997 to deepen our
engagement and establish the broad-based relationship I believe we
both seek.

In this regard, Prime Minister Vajpayee in New York last fall called
attention to his belief that the U.S. and India were "natural allies."
We should strive to realize that goal rather than remain what one
scholar accurately described as "estranged democracies." Whether we
are able, in the coming years, to consolidate our natural affinity, or
remain stuck in our old negative patterns, will be determined by the
actions of both our governments. Because we remain convinced that the
vision we articulated and the broad interests we identified are still
valid and worth pursuing, we will not be found lacking in our efforts
to seek a common approach with India on the great issues of the day.

Security Dialogues

Mr. Chairman, I should stress that since the time of India's nuclear
tests, our two countries have made progress toward understanding each
other's security considerations, but we have yet to see the concrete
actions taken that could help to reconcile our differences. We
regretted the decision last month by India to test an extended range
version of its Agni ballistic missile. While we have a much better
understanding, after eight rounds of dialogue, of what motivates
Indian strategic thinking, our concern about further missile tests by
India and Pakistan remains. We nevertheless will seek to use the solid
foundation we have established in the dialogue to continue exchanges
with whatever future government emerges. It is our hope that we will
be able to build on the work in this area we have done thus far, and
to continue to make progress toward "harmonizing" our security
concerns, to borrow a phrase from Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. This
new relationship will benefit all concerned.

It is also our expectation that there will be continuity in the search
for more stable and better relations between India and Pakistan. The
recent Lahore Summit, in which the Indian and Pakistani Prime
Ministers displayed both foresight and courage in establishing a
framework for bilateral cooperation and reconciliation, received the
enthusiastic support of millions of Indian and Pakistani citizens.
Popular reaction to Lahore gives us the hope that any new Indian
government will see fit to carry this process forward. As President
Clinton said in a statement shortly after the February meeting of the
two Prime Ministers, "South Asia-and, indeed, the entire world-will
benefit if India and Pakistan promptly turn these commitments into
concrete progress. We will continue our own efforts to work with India
and Pakistan to promote progress in the region."

I would add that it is equally important that India and China engage
on their own security concerns. In that respect, we are encouraged
that these two nations, which are playing an important role on the
world stage, have restarted their annual Joint Working Group meetings
to discuss border and other issues, which we hope will include broader
security concerns. Foreign Minister Singh had earlier indicated the
possibility of traveling to China; we hope he or his successor will do
so. We were also encouraged by Chinese Foreign Minister Tang's
statement that Beijing was committed to seeking good relations with
India into the new century.

Our Message

Mr. Chairman, in our own public diplomacy since the May tests, we have
sought to reach a broad audience, both in this country as well as in
India and Pakistan, to explain the basis of our diplomacy toward these
two countries. Deputy Secretary Talbott has given a number of
interviews and speeches in this connection, and on the U.S.-Indian
dialogue he has written articles that have been widely disseminated at
home and abroad. I have also sought opportunities with the news media
to lay out our thinking about South Asia and security. We have done
so, Mr. Chairman, because we firmly believe that the steps we are
asking India and Pakistan to take in the security and nonproliferation
areas are not merely steps that serve our own policy interests. We are
also convinced they will enhance and increase the security and
wellbeing of both countries, and of the South Asian region as a whole.

Mr. Chairman, it is our hope -- indeed our vision -- that we will be
able to move in the direction that both the United States and India
desire. We look forward to the day when differences over security
policy no longer dominate the bilateral dialogue. We look forward to
the kind of broad-based relationship that we enjoy with many other
democracies -- one in which we are deeply engaged on an agenda of
economic growth and trade, science and technology cooperation,
cultural and educational exchange, law enforcement, and in many other
areas. Our vision, Mr. Chairman, is not simply to return to the
situation in which we found ourselves on May 10, 1998. We desire to
raise our bilateral engagement to a new level of intensity, breadth
and depth. As President Clinton has said, we want a new U.S.-India
relationship for the 21st century.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(End text)