News

USIS Washington File

09 March 2000

Text: Inderfurth Outlines President's Goals for South Asian Visit

(Clinton has long recognized need to enhance U.S. engagement with
region) (1860)

"The President has recognized for some time -- since well before the
May 1998 nuclear tests -- that we need to enhance our engagement with
South Asia," Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South
Asian Affairs, said March 9 at a briefing at the U.S. Institute of
Peace on President Clinton's upcoming trip to Bangladesh, India and
Pakistan.

"U.S. thinking about and policies toward India have entered a new
phase," Inderfurth said. "We seek a broad, constructive engagement
with India based on broadly conceived U.S. interests. Our overall
relations with India will not be hostage to our relations with any
other country."

One of the areas on which the U.S. and India differ relates to
non-proliferation, Inderfurth noted. "We want to narrow the
differences where we can and address areas of disagreement in a candid
and constructive manner."

"As a friend of both India and Pakistan, we are concerned ... about
the tensions that exist between these two neighbors," the Assistant
Secretary said. "We continue to encourage both countries to look for
ways to establish dialogue with each other and will continue to do so.
The President has stated clearly that he wants to help promote that
dialogue, but we do not see ourselves as mediators on this issue."

Turning to Bangladesh, Inderfurth said: "The President's main
objective will be to recognize, reciprocate, and reinforce a tradition
of friendship and cooperation with Bangladesh, one of the leading
moderate Muslim democracies in the world."

As for Pakistan, Inderfurth said: "The President will go to Pakistan
because the Pakistani nation is a friend, not because he approves of,
or acquiesces in, the government of General Pervez Musharraf. He is
not going to mediate the Kashmir dispute."

Following is the text of Inderfurth's remarks:

(begin text)
  
U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE
THE PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO SOUTH ASIA:  AN OVERVIEW

Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth
March 9, 2000

President Clinton is preparing for a visit to a region of
extraordinary promise. South Asia has been on the back of our
diplomatic globe for too long. The President has recognized for some
time -- since well before the May 1998 nuclear tests -- that we needed
to enhance our engagement with South Asia. His trip there is part of
that effort.

On this trip, the President will visit India, Bangladesh and, as was
announced on Tuesday, Pakistan. Let me discuss each in turn.

INDIA

President Clinton's visit to India will be the first by an American
president since Jimmy Carter in 1978. Clearly this trip is long
overdue. The President will spend five days in India and visit five
cities, the most extensive trip ever by a U.S. president to that
country. As some of you know, one of the best accounts of the history
of U.S.-India relations is Dennis Kux's book Estranged Democracies. On
this trip, President Clinton wants to transform that to "Engaged
Democracies."

The fact is that U.S. thinking about and policies toward India have
entered a new phase. We seek a broad, constructive engagement with
India based on broadly conceived U.S. interests. Our overall relations
with India will not be hostage to our relations with any other
country.

-- The U.S. sees India as a key player in global affairs in the 21st
century, and as a vital contributor to overall Asian regional peace
and stability.

-- The U.S. highly values India's democratic achievement and sees our
shared commitment to open pluralistic societies as a powerful bond. We
want to give concrete expression to our shared values on this trip.

-- U.S. and Indian interests are converging in a number of areas high
on the 21st century agenda, such as:
	
- maintaining an open international economy while addressing the
potential inequities of globalization;

- ensuring peace and security in India's larger neighborhood,
including countering terrorism;

- pursuing mutual benefit through private cooperation in the high
technology sectors that will provide the impetus to economic growth in
the decades ahead;

- cooperating on global environmental and health matters.

The President will travel to India to join Prime Minister Vajpayee in
launching this new era in India-U.S. relations. He looks forward to
discussing a wide range of issues, and to learning more about the
aspirations of the Indian people, just as he carries with him the
conviction of the American people, including the dynamic Indian
American community here in the U.S., that our two countries must work
more closely together in the future.

Before moving on to the other countries on the President's itinerary,
let me mention two further points about India. As with all countries,
India and the U.S. have areas where they do not see eye to eye. We
want to narrow differences where we can and address areas of
disagreement in a candid and constructive manner.

One of these areas is nonproliferation. Over the past two years, India
and the U.S. have had an intensive, senior-level dialogue on
nonproliferation and security issues, led by Strobe Talbott on the
U.S. side and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh on the India side. We
have made some progress toward greater understanding on these issues,
but much work remains to be done. The U.S. and India share an ultimate
concern about how to make the world safer in a nuclear age, and
promoting further progress on nonproliferation will be one of the key
issues on the President's agenda in India.

Second, as a friend of both India and Pakistan, we are concerned and
in touch with both states regularly about the tensions that exist
between these two neighbors. Our concerns have been heightened by the
fact that both possess nuclear weapons and by the very intense
fighting last summer along the Line of Control in Kashmir. We continue
to encourage both countries to look for ways to establish dialogue
with each other and will continue to do so. The President has stated
clearly that he wants to help promote that dialogue, but we do not see
ourselves as mediators on this issue. I will say more in a moment
about this subject when I discuss Pakistan.

Bangladesh

Actually the first official stop on the President's schedule will be
Bangladesh on March 20, the first ever Presidential visit to this
young country. The President's main objective will be to recognize,
reciprocate, and reinforce a tradition of friendship and cooperation
with Bangladesh, one of the leading moderate Muslim democracies in the
world.

Bangladesh is a constructive participant in the international
community. It is currently serving with energy and distinction on the
UN Security Council, and has long been a top contributor of personnel
for UN peacekeeping missions around the world. It is in line to play a
leading role in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which
represents over 50 countries of the Muslim world.

In the region, Bangladesh fosters cooperation, such as its
water-sharing agreement with India. The government works with American
and international organizations to end child labor in its garment
industry and create a model program of micro-credits to improve the
lives of women and disadvantaged communities. The President's visit
will hail its successes so far, and set the stage in some very
concrete ways for further progress in each of these important areas.

I might also add that American investment in Bangladesh is rising
exponentially, from barely $25 million three years ago to over $750
million today. The country is moving forward in developing its vast
energy reserves, particularly in natural gas. And, not surprisingly,
U.S. companies are highly interested. So the economic and commercial
dimension of our relationship with Bangladesh will also be
highlighted.

Pakistan

Finally, let me speak for a moment about Pakistan. As I mentioned
earlier, the President decided this week that he will stop in Pakistan
at the conclusion of his South Asian trip. He will go to Pakistan
because it is important to a number of key U.S. national interests
that he engage with Pakistan at this time. These interests include:

-- avoiding the threat of a conflict in South Asia
-- promoting the return of democracy to Pakistan
-- fighting terrorism
-- preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
-- creating an environment of regional peace and security

The President will go to Pakistan because the Pakistani nation is a
friend, not because he approves of, or acquiesces in, the government
of General Pervez Musharraf. He is not going to mediate the Kashmir
dispute.

Rather he will go to continue his consistent efforts to advance the
interests I outlined above -- as he has over the last seven years and
as he did in his meeting with then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at
Blair House last July 4. The understanding that he reached with Sharif
that day played a key role in ending a tense conflict in Kargil.

We cannot predict when the next flare-up might occur in the region,
but tensions are higher now than they have been since the last
Indo-Pakistani war in 1971. We are concerned that, through
misunderstanding or through gradual escalation, the two countries
could once again find themselves in conflict. The President has a
responsibility to our nation and to the world to do what he can to
avoid such a dangerous development.

The President believes it is crucial that he carry a message of
restraint and dialogue to both capitals on this trip. He also wants to
assure that we have lines of communication that may be necessary in a
crisis, the kind of relationship that enable him to play the effective
role he did with Nawaz Sharif last July.

Terrorism is another vital American interest at play in Pakistan and
next door in Afghanistan. The terrorists in their camps in
Afghanistan, especially Usama bin Laden, all too clearly aim directly
at American and American lives. This will be high on the President's
agenda.

Democracy in Pakistan was interrupted on October 12. Some have urged
the President to avoid Pakistan to demonstrate our displeasure at the
military coup there. In fact, that action would be welcomed by the
very anti-democratic and militant elements in Pakistan that represent
the long-term threat to that country's system. And it would dishearten
those in Pakistan who have stood for secular, western oriented
democracy for 50 years. We do not want to break faith with them.

The President is convinced that this is the right decision that best
protects the interests of the American people.

Wrap-up

Let me conclude by referring to a recent remark by President Clinton.
He said it is unfortunate that over the years the United States and
India have not had a closer working relationship. I believe that also
applies to South Asia as a region.

The President's visit is part of an ongoing U.S. effort to change that
situation. We intend to seize this moment to lay the groundwork to
build closer relations, accentuating the positive and, hopefully,
taking steps to overcome the negatives.

(end text)

(Distributed by Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State)