SLUG: 5-47517 Yearender: India / U-S DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: The year 2000 saw a dramatic improvement in relations between the world's two largest democracies - India and the United States. The two nations had been diplomatically estranged for most of the past half-century. India's nuclear tests, two years ago, led to U-S / led sanctions and a freeze in relations. V-O-A's Jim Teeple reports all that changed in March, when Air Force One touched down in New Delhi and Bill Clinton became the first U-S president to set foot on Indian soil in more than two decades.



The guns are rarely silent along the "line of control" - the cease-fire line which divides the disputed territory of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. President Clinton called the "line of control," the most dangerous place on earth just before he left for South Asia.

As he landed in New Delhi on an extensive tour of India, South Asians held their breath - waiting to see if Mr. Clinton's legendary charisma could ease tensions between South Asia's two nuclear neighbors, India and Pakistan.

Mr. Clinton also visited Bangladesh and stopped in Pakistan,where he held a brief meeting with the country's newly installed military ruler, General

Pervez Musharraf.

// OPT // Just months earlier, Pakistan and India had once again confronted each other over Kashmir. Armed guerrillas, crossing from Pakistan, had seized several strategic mountain peaks on the Indian side off the line of control. Mr. Clinton's personal intervention in the crisis persuaded Pakistan to work to withdraw the forces. Now, Mr. Clinton was in New Delhi, to thank India for exercising restraint during the recent Kashmir crisis and to signal a fundamental shift in U-S relations - away from military-dominated Pakistan, and towards India, the world's largest democracy. // END OPT //

Mr. Clinton was effusive in his praise for Indian democracy and for Indian culture. He reveled in the hurly-burly welcome he received from Indian members of parliament, who clambered over desks and benches to shake his hand.

Mr. Clinton told Indian lawmakers he sympathized with their position as a democracy, next door to Pakistan - a nation governed by military men. However, he also called on India take the lead in easing tensions with Islamabad.


I believe India has a special opportunity, as a democracy, to show its neighbors that democracy is about dialogue. It does not have to be about friendship, but it is about building working relationships among people who differ.


// OPT // During his tour of South Asia, Mr. Clinton said he would not intervene in the Kashmir dispute,unless both India and Pakistan invited him. Indian officials said they welcomed Mr. Clinton stand and his call for both sides to respect the "line of control." // END OPT //

Behind the toasts there were lingering tensions. Media reports said Mr. Clinton's meetings with India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapyee were stiff and formal. At the center of the tensions were differences over nuclear proliferation - with Mr. Clinton attempting to convince Mr. Vajpayee to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans testing of nuclear weapons. India's prime minister responded by saying India would sign only after a national consensus to do so. Privately, Indian officials were angered over the U-S pressure - complaining that, only months earlier, the U-S Senate had rejected ratifying U-S accession to the treaty. Still, Mr. Clinton persisted, telling the Indian parliament he believed a nuclear future was not a more secure future.


From South America to South Africa, nations are foreswearing these nuclear weapons and realizing that a nuclear future is not a more secure future.

Most off the world is moving toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

That goal is not advanced if any country in the region moves in the other direction. I say this with great respect. Only India can determine its own interests.


// OPT // Despite the immense goodwill generated by President Clinton's visit to

India, analysts said - in the end - he achieved little of what he sought.

Tensions between India and Pakistan remained high; the killing continued in

Kashmir; and India's political elite appeared to be in no hurry to bring the issue of signing and ratifying the test ban treaty to a national debate. // END OPT


Mr. Clinton's visit to India was followed by Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to the United States, in September. The Indian prime minister traveled to Washington just months before the end of Mr. Clinton's term in office. Like Mr. Clinton's trip to India, Mr. Vajpayee's trip to the United States had been delayed because of repercussions following India's nuclear tests and subsequent tests by Pakistan in 1998.

At a glittering state dinner - the last of the Clinton presidency - Mr.

Vajpayee was in the awkward position of being feted by a government that continued to maintain sanctions against India for its nuclear tests. During their talks with U-S officials, Indian diplomats pressed for a complete lifting of sanctions and tried to get the United states to declare Pakistan a "rogue state," for what India says is Islamabad's sponsorship of terrorism in Kashmir. For their part, U-S officials once again asked India to move towards signing and ratifying the C-T-B-T. Neither side was successful, but analysts said - unlike in the past when such differences might have resulted in an angry public diplomatic dispute - there were warm public pronouncements about growing ties between India and the United States, especially in the area of Information Technology.

Uday Bhaskar - a prominent researcher in New Delhi says, for the time being, both countries have decided to put their differences on nuclear issues aside and proceed with normal relations.


The United States has outlined its position on nuclear non-proliferation position fairly clearly. But I think there is also a certain awareness within the United States that India is a de-facto nuclear weapons power and that India will arrive at its own decisions given the kind of democratic pluralism that animates the Indian experience and that there is a symbolism in Prime Minster Vajapyee's visit to Washington - because for the first time the U-S invited an elected leader to speak to its congress - even when there are sanctions in place - so in that sense I would say there is a certain nuanced kind of review going on - on both sides.


As his presidency neared its end, there were real signs Mr. Clinton's historic trip to India and Mr. Vajapayee's reciprocal visit to the United States were paying real dividends in improving ties. Scientific and technical agreements spelling out cooperation in a number of areas, signed during Mr. Clinton's stay in New Delhi had, by year's end, resulted in a steady stream of policy experts visiting each other's countries. There was significant. growing cooperation on law enforcement issues - especially on terrorism - and close diplomatic cooperation on issues at the United Nations. Indians and Americans seemed to be heeding a call made by Mr. Clinton on the eve of his historic visit, when he said that - after 50 years of missed opportunities - it was now time that India and the United States become better friends and stronger partners. (Signed)