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USIS Washington File

03 May 2000

U.S. Hopeful for New Relationship with India, Berger Says

(White House official discusses Asian issues) (760)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent 

New York -- President Clinton's recent visit to India gave hope that
the United States and India can develop a new relationship based on
mutual respect and partnership, according to Samuel Berger, assistant
to the president for national security affairs.

"What the president did in India was to change the terms of reference
of our relationship with India," Berger said May 2. Clinton "was very
straightforward and candid about his concerns about the nuclear
program, his concerns about seeking a military solution in Kashmir as
opposed to a peaceful solution. But he also said that we are natural
allies."

If the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest democracy
"don't have a natural affinity, something is terribly wrong," he said.

Berger commented on the president's March visit to South Asia during a
presentation at The East Asian Institute of Columbia University where
he argued for the U.S. giving China permanent normal trade relations
status and supporting Beijing's entry into the World Trade
Organization (WTO).

The reaction of the Indian people "was overwhelming ... a really quite
enormous outpouring," Berger said.

He interpreted that response as an indication that "the Indians are
ready for a new relationship with the United States based on respect,
based on mutuality, based on partnership. Not based on a one-way
street."

"Now we need to do this in a way that recognizes the balance in south
Asia," Berger said.

Clinton went to Pakistan as well despite the government coup, because
he "felt that it was important that we not bypass Pakistan, that we
maintain a channel to the Pakistani Government," the White House
official said.

"He went there; he spoke directly to the Pakistani people on
nationwide television. He said, essentially, you are on the wrong
course," Berger explained. "We're your friends, you've got to figure
out how to get back to democracy. You can stop thinking you can win a
war in Kashmir and start investing in your own country."

"It was rather bracing for the Pakistanis but I think they respected
the president's forthrightness. We now have to build on that," he
said.
 
The Indian and Pakistani visits make the "argument for engagement as
opposed to isolation. Those who say we can change China by isolating
China or change China by isolating ourselves from China are on the
wrong side of history," Berger said.

"We should have no illusions, we should have open eyes," he said. "We
can deal with the stress as well as the opportunities far better" by
dealing with those countries directly rather than by "turning our
back."

Discussing the upcoming Congressional vote on permanent normal trade
relations status (PNTR), Berger said, "the Chinese Government and the
Chinese people will have a difficult time understanding why we
rejected PNTR."

"They realize this is a one-way economic deal. These are reforms we
have been urging them to make for 20 or 30 years. They have now made
them at some risk internally and suddenly we'd be saying we reject
this, we don't want to engage with you. That would significantly
weaken those who have been identified with WTO, market opening, market
reform in China," he said.

A vote against PNTR "would strengthen those who have said cooperating
with the United States is a mistake," the White House official said.

If the trade status was rejected, Berger said, he believes that the
United States "would have less ability to cooperate with China."

"I do believe our ability to be a stabilizing influence across the
Taiwan Straits would be diminished. I do believe that our allies in
Asia would see a U.S.-China confrontation in the making and would
begin to reposition themselves into a somewhat more guarded posture,"
he said.

"Bringing China into the global system ... initially economically and
otherwise, will have a stabilizing rather than a destabilizing
influence," Berger said.

"There are a number of threats to security and stability in Asia," he
said. The United States' objective "is to try to be a stabilizing
influence so that no power, whether it is China or otherwise, feels
that it militarily or otherwise can gain an advantage through use of
force. The perception of that will set a chain reaction off with other
nations, Japan, Korea and others in destabilizing the arms race."

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