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USIS Washington File

14 March 2000

President Clinton's Trip to South Asia Can Advance Mutual Trust

(Albright sees trip as important to regional prosperity) (830)
By William B. Reinckens
Washington File Staff Correspondent

Washington -- President Clinton's trip to India, Bangladesh and
Pakistan March 19-25 "provides a rich opportunity to promote American
interests in an area where a fifth of the world's people live,
security risks are high, economic opportunities abound, and there is a
potential for wide-ranging cooperation on global issues," Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright said March 14 in remarks to the Asia Society.

The President's official visit will be the first to India by a U.S.
President in 22 years; the first to Pakistan by a sitting President
since Richard M. Nixon's presidency; and the first ever to Bangladesh
by a U.S. President.

The visit underscores the Clinton Administration's effort to broaden
relations with South Asian nations, particularly in the areas of
regional stability, non-proliferation, international trade and
combating terrorism, U.S. officials say.

Noting the South Asian nuclear tests of May 1998 conducted by India
and Pakistan, Albright said the United States continues to seek
universal adherence to the NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty). "India and
Pakistan have all the more reason to avoid armed conflict. And all the
more reason to restart a discussion on ways to build confidence and
prevent escalation," she said.

"While India has the right to decide how to take care of its own
security," Albright said, "we do regard proliferation -- anywhere --
as our number one security concern."
 
"We will continue to discuss how to pursue security requirements
without contributing to a costly and destabilizing arms race,"
Albright said. She said that India's already effective system to
control exports of military technology should be strengthened.

Albright stressed that President Clinton's decision to stop in
Pakistan at the end of the trip "is in no way a decision to endorse
the military coup or government led by General Pervez Musharraf." Nor
is the President going to Pakistan to mediate the Kashmir dispute, she
said. "We have made it clear he will not do that unless both sides
ask."

"Today, the conflict over Kashmir has been fundamentally transformed,"
Albright said. "Nations must not attempt to change borders or zones of
occupation through armed force." She also said the Line of Control
must be respected and as long as it is violated "the people of Kashmir
have no real hope of peace."

In Pakistan President Clinton "will make clear our support for an
early return to democratic rule, as well as our ongoing friendship for
the Pakistani people," the Secretary said.

The issues of nuclear proliferation and terrorism will also be
discussed. Albright said that she was encouraged by the recent
announcement by Pakistan's foreign minister that Pakistan would sign
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). "That would be the right
kind of coup for Pakistan -- and I guarantee, the international
community would rally around it," she said.

Prior to Albright's remarks at the luncheon, an Asia Society panel of
experts on regional affairs discussed the President's visit. The
panelists included Frank Wisner, former U.S. ambassador to India and
currently Vice Chairman, American International Group, Inc.; Jagdish
Bhagwati, Arthur Lehman Professor of Economics, Columbia University;
Marshall Bouton, Executive Vice President, Asia Society; and Dr.
Michael T. Clark, Executive Director, U.S.-India Business Council.

President Clinton's trip can "contribute to a climate of trust and
confidence," between the United States and India and will set the
groundwork for future and regular exchanges between a U.S. President
and the Prime Minister of India, said Wisner. He also foresees a
policy dialogue coming about between the Department of State and the
Indian Foreign Ministry. Over the last few weeks, Wisner said he
noticed in India and Washington "a growing confidence that the
relationship can be managed by equals."

Wisner also said the trip could support military stability and give
movement toward substantive negotiations between Pakistan and India on
a variety of issues, including Kashmir.

The panelists predicted that a new era is opening up and transforming
South Asia and presenting new opportunities for the United States.
They pointed out that India is leading the way on the subcontinent
with its annual six- to seven-percent GDP economic growth rate and its
new "knowledge-based" telecommunications industries.

"The (economic) system is opening and it's an important market with
enormous potential," said Bhagwati. He said that India in the past has
not taken advantage of the movement towards economic globalization. He
expressed the hope that President Clinton will meet with India's
non-governmental organizations and with representatives of India's
Labor unions.

Secretary Albright said in her remarks that "India's economic reforms
are a work in progress" because there are still obstacles to economic
growth. "Changing all this will not be easy, but the overall trends
are plainly in the right direction," she said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
usinfo.state.gov)