News

The White House Briefing Room


July 4, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ON PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER SHARIF OF PAKISTAN


	     


                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                           July 4, 1999     

	     
                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                   SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
                    ON PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH 
                  PRIME MINISTER SHARIF OF PAKISTAN
	     
                         The Briefing Room   
	     	  
	     

5:40 P.M. EDT
	     
	     
	     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We have two Senior 
Administration Officials here to give you a little background on the 
three-hour meeting that took place at Blair House.  I'll give you a 
little bit, first of all, of the back-and-forth that happened at 
Blair House.
	     
	     Some of you were asking earlier, why Blair House.  Well, 
as it proved this afternoon, where you had various meetings at 
various times with small groups in different rooms, how valuable it 
was to have a resource like we have across the street.  
	     
	     But in the three hours that the two delegations were 
together, they started off with about 40 minutes in small group 
delegations, three on the United States side and two on the Pakistan 
side, plus the leaders.  There was a point at which the two leaders, 
President Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif, went into a one-on-one 
with a notetaker.  They then took about a one-hour break, during 
which the two sides conferred on their discussions up to that point.
	     
	     During that time, President Clinton did have a brief 
10-minute conversation with Prime Minister Vajpayee of India to keep 
him fully apprised of the discussion.  And then they finished up 
with, during the course of the last hour, some back-and-forth between 
the President, the Prime Minister, and in various delegations and 
various sizes.

	  
	  Since that time, of course, Sandy Berger has now 
telephoned his counterpart, Prime Minister Vajpayee's National 
Security Advisor, to bring him up to date on the results of 

today's activity.  So, at this point, I will introduce Senior 
Administration Official number one, who will go through some of 
the detail of the meeting.

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me add to what 
you've just heard by saying that the President and the Prime 
Minister had a positive meeting.  They agreed upon the joint 
statement which you have.  Let me just take a minute and read it 
to you for the record.

	  President Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif share the 
view that the current fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir is 
dangerous and contains the seeds of a wider conflict.  They also 
agreed it was vital for the peace of South Asia that the line of 
control in Kashmir be respected by both parties in accordance 
with the 1972 Simla Accord.

	  It was agreed between the President and the Prime 
Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of 
the line of control, in accordance with the Simla agreement.  The 
President urged an immediate cessation of the hostilities once 
these steps are taken.  
	  
	  The Prime Minister agreed that the bilateral dialogue 
begun in Lahore in February provides the best forum for resolving 
all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir.  The 
President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging 
an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral 
efforts once the sanctity of the line of control has been fully 
restored.  
	  
	  The President reaffirmed his intent to pay an early 
visit to South Asia.
	  
	  If I could take a minute just to give you some 
perspective on the President's involvement in this.  As you know, 
a series of military clashes began in this part of Kashmir last 
month.  Almost from the beginning, the President recognized that 
this was a very serious situation and one that had great danger 
for wider escalation.  He began to have a series of contacts with 
both Prime Ministers.
	  
	  Beginning in mid-June he first called Prime Minister 
Vajpayee -- I think on the 14th of June.  And then he called 
Prime Minister Sharif on the 15th of June.  While he was in 
Europe on his trip, with regards to Kosovo, the President also 
continued to have direct contact with the two, exchanging a 
series of messages and letters.  
	  

	  National Security Advisor Berger met with his 
counterpart from India in Geneva on the margins of the European 
trip.  I think we've briefed you in the past on the content of 
those messages, but I think they amount to a clear call for 
restraint on both sides, a call for the restoration of the line 
of control, and in urging both parties to go back to the Lahore 
process, which we have seen as a very encouraging process that 
began in February, of direct dialogue between the two leaders.
	  
	  On Saturday morning, Prime Minister Sharif asked to 
call the President.  The President took his call yesterday 
morning.  They spoke for a while.  The Prime Minister asked the 
President if he could come to Washington on an urgent basis.  The 
President proposed this afternoon.  I think many of you know the 
President is leaving on a domestic trip tomorrow, so he said, 
come this afternoon.  The Prime Minister agreed.
	  
	  The President also called Prime Minister Vajpayee to 
brief him on these developments and to make sure he was fully 
informed as to what our intentions were.  
	  
	  The President, as my colleague has told you, met for 
almost three hours with the Prime Minister this afternoon.  At 
one point during that process, they took a break and the 
President called Prime Minister Vajpayee in New Delhi and gave 
him an interim readout on where we were.  Once we had reached 
agreement on the statement, National Security Advisor Berger 
called his counterpart again in Delhi, just a few minutes ago to 
brief him on the statement and give him a recap of what has 
happened here today.  I expect that we will have other 
communications with the Indians, probably through Deputy 
Secretary Talbott, calling the Foreign Minister probably tomorrow 
morning.

	  Q    What are the concrete steps that are going to be 
taken to restore this peace or dividing line, or whatever it is?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Well, as I think you 
know, our position has been that the forces that are across the 
line of control need to be returned to the Pakistani side.

	  Q    The statement says "will be taken."  What does 
that mean?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  That is our 
understanding.

	  Q    You mean both sides have agreed?


	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  This is a joint 
statement between the United States and Pakistan, and I think it 
speaks for itself.  Our understanding is that there will be 
withdrawal of the forces now.

	  Q    So what the time frame?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think it is safe to 
say that the President and both Prime Ministers have a great 
sense of urgency here, and that we expect -- want to see positive 
steps taken in a very early time.

	  Q    Do you have any reactions from the Indian Prime 
Minister when he was told this? 

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think I will let the 
Indian Prime Minister characterize his view himself.

	  Q    So what was the urgency for the Prime Minister of 
Pakistan to come here on an emergency basis during this 4th of 
July weekend, holiday, involving thousands of people who are with 
families and celebrating this U.S. independence -- (laughter.)  
He could have said this on the phone to the President, "Mr. 
President, this is the story."  And may I follow that up?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We haven't answered it 
yet.
	  
	  Q    -- I was wondering whether the cease-fire called 
also applies to the militants who daily cross the Indian line of 
control and commit atrocities and kill women and children and -- 
does the call for the restoration of the line of control mean 
also that this activity must also cease?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me -- this is a 
backgrounder, so let me give you some more background.  I think 
that would be -- I'm Administration Official two, for purposes of 
identification.  If you would look at the statement for a moment, 
in terms of giving you a little bit more context for each part of 
this, the very first part about sharing the view that the current 
fighting is dangerous -- they both agree that the current 
situation is very dangerous, that it does risk wider conflict, 
escalation, and that it must be defused.  So that is the 
beginning.
	  
	  They also agree that it was vital for the peace of 
South Asia that the line of control in Kashmir be respected by 
both parties, in accordance with their 1972 Simla Accord.  It was 
that accord which established that line	 that has been 
delineated, and it is reestablishment of that, restoration of 
that which is the way to address this current problem.
	  
	  It was agreed by the President and Prime Minister that 
concrete steps will be taken for the restoration.  This is 
dealing with the immediate crisis, and I think the administration 
official --
	  
	  Q    Have both sides agreed to withdraw?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  This is not, again, 
between both sides.  This is a U.S.-Pakistani joint press 
statement.
	  
	  Q    Well, does it mean that only Pakistan will 
withdraw?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Those forces that have 
been involved have crossed over to the Indian side of the line of 
control.  Those are the forces that are being -- at issue.
	  
	  Q    So is the Pakistani Prime Minister conceding that 
he has the influence to get these guerrillas out of Kashmir?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  What I'm trying to do 
now is give you a sense of the statement itself.  I think you're 
going to get background here, not elaboration.  We want to give 
you background for what has been agreed to during these three 
hours at Blair House. 
	  
	  Again, concrete steps will be taken for the restoration 
of the line of control in accordance with the Simla Accord.  The 
next portion, the President urged 	     an immediate 
cessation of the hostilities once these steps have been taken.  
This gets to the issue of sequencing.  There has been some debate 
about what are the right steps to be taken, what sequence.  It's 
our view that the concrete steps must be taken reestablish the 
line of control, and then a cessation of the hostilities, and 
then a return to the Lahore process.  So this goes to the 
question of the sequence, once these steps have been taken.
	  
	  Then we have the President and the Prime Minister 
agreeing that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in February 
provides the best forum.  You've seen a great deal of press 
attention to the Lahore summit, what was agreed to, and that 
summit did produce a declaration which referred to resolving all 
outstanding issues, including Kashmir, on a bilateral basis.  And 
therefore, they reaffirmed their view that this is the best forum 
for addressing these issues -- in other words, in a bilateral 
context.
	  
	  But the next portion of it makes it very clear that the 
President is going to take a personal interest in encouraging an 
expeditious resumption and intensification of these bilateral 
efforts.  The President wants to see this process move forward as 
quickly as possible and he will be involved in trying in his 
fashion to encourage that to take place, and that once the 
sanctity of the line of control has been fully restored -- in 
other words, the point being there that this process really can't 
be resumed until that line of control is restored.
	  
	  And finally, the President reaffirmed his intent to pay 
an early visit to South Asia, something that Administration 
Official number and I both know that the President has wanted to 
do for a very long time and he -- I'm sorry?
	  
	  Q    Will you answer my question, which is there are 
two aspects to the cease-fire -- you call for a cease-fire, there 
are two aspects to it.  One is -- element coming in, and the 
other is the training of the militants and sending them across on 
the Pakistani -- daily.  And there coming to all this violence -- 
does your call for a cease-fire also involve stopping this kind 
of activity?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You notice in the very 
first sentence here that the two leaders share the view that the 
current fighting in the Kargil sector of Kashmir -- the purpose 
of this meeting is to address the immediate crisis, which has 
been unfolding over the last several weeks.  That is the urgency. 
And clearly once you have addressed this immediate crisis, there 
will be opportunities to address all issues, again within the 
context of Lahore.  But this was for the purpose of dealing with 
this very important situation facing the leaders right now.
	  
	  Q    Is there a time frame for that sequencing?

	  Q    Since the Prime Minister basically agreed to the 
statement, can we rightly understand that he believes there are 
concrete steps that he can take to restore the line of control?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We're not in a 
position to characterize his position, but that certainly is our 
understanding that there are concrete steps --
	  Q    What is the U.S. understanding about the 
restoration of the line of control in accordance with the Simla 
agreement?  That means the day the Simla agreement was signed, if 
there had been any alteration in the line of control after 1972 
by use of force -- what is the U.S. understanding about those 
territories?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We have read the Simla 
agreement, we read the 43-page annex which delineates line of 
control.  But this meeting today was not about the history of 
that agreement, or, indeed, the history of the Kashmir crisis.  
It is about this particular situation in Kargil with those posts 
that have been overtaken, and dealing with that.
	  
	  Q    What's the timeline for that sequencing that you 
gave for the concrete steps?  Is there a timeline for the 
immediate situation?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  For the immediate 
situation, we would like to see positive steps in the very near 
future.
	  
	  Q    Can you answer my question about what was the 
urgency of the Prime Minister to come here on this 4th of July 
weekend, holiday?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think that's a 
question that you better ask the Prime Minister's party, rather 
than us.  The President demonstrated his determination to do what 
he could to help ease this situation by taking the step of 
receiving the Prime Minister on very short notice on our national 
day.  But if you want to know the Prime Minister's motivations, I 
think we're the wrong party to ask.
	  
	  Q    -- waste of time for the Pakistani Prime Minister 
to come here?
	  
	  Q    My question is, President Clinton has promised to 
take "personal interest."  So there is no commitment on the part 
of the United States to continue to take interest in the solving 
of the Kashmir dispute.  So he goes out and the personal interest 
will refer him to his golf course, and say, okay, talk to him.  
Is that the meaning of personal interest?  Or is there a 
commitment on the part of the United States to continue to be 
involved in solving the Kashmir dispute?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think you're parsing 
that sentence way too narrowly.  The President has had an 
interest in this.  He has had Deputy Secretary Talbott and 
Administration Officials one and two engaged in an intense 
process for the last year on this	.  No, it does not mean 
that when January 2001 comes around, he takes this issue with him 
to whatever he goes on to.
	  

	  Q    Why does it not mean the United States --
	  
	  Q    When is he going to travel --
	  
	  Q    Is it the administration's understanding that when 
the Prime Minister returns to Pakistan he will ask the army to 
withdraw whatever forces have crossed the line?  Is that what you 
mean by withdrawal of forces?
	  
	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think the Prime 
Minister will have to make those decisions himself about how he 
will undertake to pursue what is contained in this document.  I 
mean, we can't predict how he will go about that. 

	  I do want to say one thing about the timing of a 
possible presidential trip.  There is an election that is 
scheduled to take place in India -- elections beginning at the 
end of September, run into October.  It's possible that a new 
government may not be formed until late October or November, 
early November.  We don't have the exact schedule yet.  That 
certainly would affect the possibility of any presidential travel 
before that time.

	  Q     Did the Prime Minister acknowledge that they had 
troops in Kargil and they would withdraw them? 

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Again, what we're 
doing here is to give you an understanding of the document 
itself, what was said, backgrounding.  We're not going to get 
into an elaboration of what was discussed at the meeting.

	  Q    Do you have any better sense yourselves, then, of 
the reasons that this action was taken by the Pakistanis a couple 
months ago -- crossing the line?

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think there has been 
plenty of reporting that's been done speculating why certain 
things have been done over the last several weeks.  I don't think 
we can add anything to that right now.

	  Q    The statement emphasizes Simla agreement and the  
Lahore declaration, in other words, the bilateral dialogues.  Why 
do -- approve Security Council resolutions?  President Clinton 
and every senior U.S. official criticizes and condemned Iraq for 
not abiding by the approved Security Council resolutions.  No one 
said a single word to India -- why the double standards? 

	  SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, again, we are 
very aware of the history of Kashmir.  In fact, if any of you 
wish, you can go back to Secretary Albright's father's book, 
"Danger in Kashmir," that he wrote after being on the first U.N. 
Commission.  We're very aware of the history and what has been 
said and what has been done.  
	  
	  Our focus now is on the present, and the most important 
recent event dealing with this history is Lahore, where the two 
Prime Ministers met and issued a joint declaration, which I think 
the entire world was very encouraged to see and hopeful that it 
would be pursued.  What we've seen recently in the Kargil sector 
is a step backward.  

	  We're hoping that what can be done by the President and 
others can get this back on track so diplomacy can be resumed.  
And I think that that is why we're trying to focus on this -- not 
going through the historical record, but I think that the Prime 
Ministers themselves are best able to do this.  And they will 
have the full support in that effort by the President and the 
U.S. government. 

             END                      6:00 P.M. EDT