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USIS Washington File

16 March 2000

New Partnership with India to Be Focus of Clinton South Asia Trip

(Berger briefs White House correspondents on March 18-26 plans) (760)
By Wendy S. Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- "The most important dimension" of President Clinton's
March 18-26 trip to South Asia "is to try to establish a new
partnership with India," says President Clinton's National Security
Advisor Sandy Berger.

"With the end of the Cold War a great new opportunity" exists "to see
India as the world's largest, perhaps most vibrant, certainly one of
the most promising democracies," Berger told reporters March 16 at a
late afternoon briefing at the White House. "For 50 years, America's
relationship with India has been viewed through the prism of the Cold
War and its aftermath," he said.

Berger quoted India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as saying
recently that the United States and India are "natural allies."

"I think that's a view we share," Berger said, "and (we) have a
tremendous opportunity to reshape, over time, the nature of our
relationship."

"Clinton has been determined to get this partnership on track to the
benefit of Indians and Americans alike," Berger said. "We want to
deepen ties between our governments, our private sectors, our
scientists, our citizens."

"As we pursue renewed partnership, we must also address important
differences with India and, of course, with Pakistan," he said.

It will be the first visit to South Asia in 22 years by a U.S.
President. Clinton also will visit Bangladesh and stop in Pakistan at
the end of his week-long trip.

Clinton had hoped to visit South Asia sooner in his Presidency, Berger
said, but Indian domestic politics, and then the nuclear tests
conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998, derailed those plans.

"This trip should have taken place almost three years ago, in 1997,"
Karl Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
said.

"At the time of the 50th anniversary" of India's independence from
Britain, "when Clinton was going to go, the government fell. Shortly
after that, there were nuclear tests. Then we started thinking again
about going. The government fell. So it has been a combination of
domestic politics and world events that has delayed this. It's long
overdue."

Berger said Clinton "is not going to South Asia to mediate the dispute
between" India and Pakistan. "But he will urge them to exercise
restraint and resume dialogue. Two nations who offer so much to the
world should not condemn their children to a dangerous future. They
should choose instead the path toward peace," he said.

He said Clinton's stop in Pakistan at the end of his trip "is not an
endorsement of the military government" there.

"While we disapprove of the way in which democracy was overturned in
Pakistan and would seek an early return to democracy, as well as other
steps from the Pakistani government," Berger said, "we believe that it
is better for the United States and better for the region, for us to
maintain a line of communication with the government of Pakistan
during particularly difficult times."

While in Pakistan, Clinton will meet with Pakistan's President
Mohammad Rafiq Tarar, a holdover from the previous government, and
then he'll meet with chief executive, General Pervez Musharraf, who
ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a coup last October.

Following that, Clinton is scheduled to deliver a televised address
directly to the people of Pakistan, "our long-time friends, about our
hopes for Pakistan and our concerns about its future," Berger said.

Clinton "will talk about the long relationship that the United States
has had with the people of Pakistan, our high regard for the people of
Pakistan, but our concerns about things that are happening in
Pakistan, because we're concerned about Pakistan's future.

"We're concerned about its nuclear program, we're concerned about
tension across the Line of Control in Kashmir. We're concerned about
terrorism, we're concerned about seeing a path back to democracy. And
I think the President will talk about all of those things to the
people of Pakistan and with great respect," Berger said.

The president will arrive in New Delhi the evening of March 19. Monday
morning, March 20, he will travel to Bangladesh, the first U.S.
president ever to visit Bangladesh.

He then will spend the rest of his time in India, except for his stop
in Pakistan March 25 on his return home to the United States.

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