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DATE=3/13/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=CLINTON SOUTH ASIA NUMBER=5-45622 BYLINE=RAVI KHANNA DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: President Clinton goes to South Asia later this week for talks with Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi leaders. V-O-A's Ravi Khanna takes a look at the visit and the promise and problems it holds. TEXT: President Clinton planned this visit for 1998 - before the sudden nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. The tests delayed the visit and the intervening time has drastically changed the political situations in both India and Pakistan, and also their bilateral situation. The tests have brought the nuclear non-proliferation issue to the top of Mr. Clinton's agenda in New Delhi and Islamabad. To prepare for the visit, Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott have held at least 10-rounds of talks, but without much progress on the non-proliferation issue. While Washington wants India to not develop or deploy nuclear weapons, India maintains it has to have a credible minimum nuclear capability to deter attacks on its sovereignty. India believes the visit - the first by a U-S President in 22-years - will be a turning point in Indian-American relations. Mr. Talbott says the nuclear issue will dominate Mr. Clinton's talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. // TALBOTT ACT // On the one hand I know President Clinton, when he goes to India, will be committed to using the trip itself and the aftermath of the trip to make clear to the world, to the Indian people, to the American people, and everybody else that we really are turning a new page in the relationship. But at the same time to acknowledge that there is important unfinished business and indeed significant differences between us on the issue of nuclear weaponry and the role nuclear weaponry should play in a state's own security, in regional security, and global security. This business is unfinished. And there is another agenda item that we have had in the dialogue from the very beginning, which has to do with the India-Pakistan - and there is a hyphen there - relationship and dialogue. // END ACT // The hyphen Mr. Talbott was talking about has been one of the most hotly debated issues before the visit. One point of view at the State Department and Capitol Hill is that India and Pakistan should not be coupled together all the time and the relations with one should not be seen through the prism of relations with the other. Democratic congressman Gary Ackerman does not mince words in explaining his view. // ACKERMAN ACT // De-linkage in my view does not connote ignoring one side of the equation or the other. You cannot resolve India's problems with Pakistan without Pakistan, and you can not resolve Pakistan's problems with India without India. That does not mean that we can not use common sense and view things from the reality that goes on. We can be even-handed. But that does not mean we have to treat them equally. Even-handed means that you apply the same standards of trying to accomplish that which you seek to have done. If one is the aggressor and the other is a victim, call the shot as you see it. I think that is fair. You know fair is not always equal, and I think that we have to keep that in mind. // END ACT // U-S officials believe Mr. Clinton's delayed decision to make a brief stop in Pakistan reflects that de- linkage. Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Clinton said his move to include Pakistan is a recognition that American interests and values will be advanced if Washington maintains communication with Pakistan, despite the October ouster of Nawaz Sharif's democratic government by General Pervez Musharraf. The president said it would be a grave mistake to see his visit as an endorsement of the coup or the military rulers. (SIGNED) NEB/RK/RAE 13-Mar-2000 12:01 PM EDT (13-Mar-2000 1701 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .