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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Thomas R. Pickering,
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Remarks, Foreign Policy Institute, South Asia Program
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
The Johns Hopkins University
Washington, DC April 27, 2000

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U.S. Policy in South Asia: The Road Ahead

Thank you, Shirin [Taher-Kheli]. I am delighted to have this opportunity to address U.S. policy toward South Asia but, before I begin, allow me to note one thing just about everybody in this audience already knows: In your own work here at SAIS, Shirin, as in your previous government service and other professional pursuits, you truly personify the highest level of energy, talent, integrity, and devotion -- both to your American home and to your South Asian heritage.

Indeed, if I may say so, one reason South Asia is now assuming a higher place in American foreign policy is because of the enormous contributions being made to our country by those of South Asian descent. It is a region in which I was privileged to serve as U.S. ambassador, and in which I retain an abiding interest and affection. And, of course, President Clinton's recent extensive visit to this region has now placed it squarely on the map both in policy and business circles. South Asia is literally on the opposite side of the globe. For too long, that meant South Asia also languished outside the mainstream of American diplomacy. Until last month, no U.S. President had been there since Jimmy Carter in 1978.

President Clinton started his second term with a deliberate plan to end that neglect. As part of that plan, we were preparing for him to visit the sub-continent in 1997. But the vicissitudes of Indian politics and the extremely unfortunate Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, delayed the trip for over 2 years, complicating our efforts to build new bridges to countries in the region. Despite these setbacks, we remain convinced of the need to build stronger diplomatic, economic, and human ties with South Asia. There are a number of factors that play into that conviction. I want to outline a few for you today because I believe it is critical that people in the United States understand the importance of this region to them and our nation.

First, there is size and geography. It cannot escape anyone's notice that this region is home to over one-fifth of all human beings, and that proportion is growing. It is an increasingly better educated, innovative, and competitive population, which enhances its importance to us.

Second, South Asia sits at a crossroads in many senses. It is a place where millions of people, from hundreds of language groups and ethnicities have lived side by side for millennia. All of the world's great religions are represented in the region. In short, the region is a learning laboratory for human diversity, democracy, and development.

Third, South Asia sits in a strategically and commercially important place geographically. Throughout history the great trade routes between east and west have crossed the region -- both on land and sea -- and that remains the case today.

All of this, however, points out only what is historically true. To understand why we are working so hard to reach out to South Asia now, one needs only to look at the end of the Cold War and at globalization to understand the flowering opportunities and the burgeoning challenges that now confront us.

These events brought a realignment of relationships, more open economies, and an increased flow of people, information and ideas to all corners of the globe. South Asia has been caught up in these changes, increasingly impacting important American interests, but providing risks along with opportunities.We believe it is imperative to engage with South Asia to capitalize on the opportunities to strengthen democracies, increase respect for human rights, and continue to build sound and flourishing economies that benefit the U.S. and the region. At the same time, we want to work diligently with the people and countries of South Asia to combat the new global threats from disease, environmental degradation, transnational crime, and terrorism, and to reduce the threats posed to all humanity by war and nuclear proliferation.

The President completed his landmark visit to the three largest countries in South Asia one month ago. This is, therefore, a good moment to take stock of what was accomplished on his trip, what remains to be done, and where we want to go from here in our relations with this increasingly important part of the world. Let me begin with India. Secretary Albright, in a speech to the Asia Society that set the stage for the President's trip, observed that "for decades, the enormous potential of Indo-U.S. relations went largely untapped." The primary reason for this was the Cold War, and, frankly, our very divergent views about it. In the diplomatic arena, India chose the path of nonalignment, in which we sometimes saw a pro-Soviet bias. In the economic sphere, India's socialist, statist, and protectionist policies did little, as we saw it, to develop either its own great potential or its links with the United States. Both sides were too slow, even after the Cold War was over, to adjust to changing circumstances and find ways to manage differences, including substantial disagreement over nuclear issues.

Today, however, as the Secretary said, "both the U.S. and India are coming to realize that there was always something unnatural and regrettable about the estrangement of our two democracies." The removal of many Cold War differences has given greater prominence to the democratic values we have always shared. India's decisions on economic policy have begun to make it a better and a more important trade and investment partner. India has long been a leader among developing nations. Over the past decade, its gradually globalizing economy has fostered a broader and more nuanced perspective in politics as well. In its extemely important role in the world, India has three great assets: a vigorous and hardy democratic political system, a newly dynamic economy, and a desire to expand its international horizons. All of these elements are acknowledged in the joint statement on "Indo-U.S. Relations: A Vision for the 21st Century" signed by President Clinton and Prime Minster Vajpayee in New Delhi during the trip. The two leaders resolved "to create a closer and qualitatively new relationship between the U.S. and India," based on shared democratic values and increasingly convergent pragmatic interests, in the political, economic, environmental, and other domains.

The statement also commits both countries to build upon the productive strategic dialogue led by Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott and Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. In appropriately visionary yet very concrete language, both governments promised "to remove impediments to bilateral trade and investment," particularly "in the emerging knowledge-based industries and high-technology areas." The fact is that, for the past several years, India's software exports have been growing at the astronomical annual rate of 50%, with no end in sight. Ten years ago, they were less than $200 million per year. Last year they were $5.2 billion. Increasingly, Indian technical and computer expertise is eagerly sought around the world.

In a broader sense we have both also committed to preserve stability and growth in the global economy through support of an open, equitable and transparent rule-based multilateral trading system. India continues to work at opening its markets and we hope that progress will continue in such important areas as increasing protection for intellectual property rights, decreasing protectionist tarrifs, and broadening competition in the financial services and insurance sectors.

In the environmental arena, our joint statement pledges a common effort to meet global challenges, "including climate change and the impacts of air and water pollution on human health." Given India's size and substantial economic growth rate, this new undertaking on its part must be counted as a significant advance in cooperative approaches to these worldwide problems. It is a good first step toward addressing the severe environmental problems in the region, including the need to provide clean water, cleaner air and environmentally safer energy to the people of India. In the related area of health, the President's trip also highlighted U.S.-Indian cooperation. India suffers under a heavy burden of infectious disease and it has only just begun to deal with the enormous threat that HIV/AIDS poses to its people. While the President was in India, we issued a Joint Leadership Statement on AIDS and reaffirmed our support for AIDS prevention, as well as polio and tuberculosis eradication. The complete eradication of polio in India is in sight. USAID has made health its top priority in India.

The United States and India are also natural allies in the cause of democracy. We are both members of the convening group for the Community of Democracies, and Bangladesh is also participating. During the President's trip we established together the Asian Center for Democratic Governance. In addition to the vision statement, President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee also laid out a new "architecture" for the ongoing high-level exchanges needed to propel that vision forward. With the framework in place, the builders are now busy fitting the new pieces into the structure. As you know, President Clinton has invited Prime Minister Vajpayee to visit Washington later this year.

A new bilateral Science and Technology Forum is being set up right now to promote even closer collaboration in this and related areas, where there has been a long-standing U.S.-Indian common interest. The United States and India also agreed on the importance of continuing our dialogue on security and nonproliferation. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding formally establishing the India-U.S. Financial and Economic Forum, which will greatly facilitate our consultation and cooperation in this field. With very productive counter-terrorism talks here and FBI Director Freeh's visit to New Delhi resulting in agreement to open the first FBI office in India, we have reinforced our strong cooperation in the common battle against terrorism and international crime.

Let me now turn for a moment to the subject of nonproliferation. No issue is more important to American security than our efforts to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, and their means of delivery. This issue will continue to play a central role in our relations in the sub-continent. Even as we seek to build a new and qualitatively closer relationship with India, that relationship cannot realize its full potential without further progress on nonproliferation.

We also cannot and will not be able to cooperate on military issues until there is substantial progress on non-proliferation. We face similar problems in our relations with Pakistan. This issue was discussed at length by the President in both countries. President Clinton publicly posed a set of questions that set out clearly fundamental concerns relating to nuclear weapons and security. Were people really more secure today than before testing nuclear weapons? Will these weapons make war less likely, or simply more deadly? Will a costly arms race help to achieve any economic development? Will ties with friends around the world be strengthened?" The United States, as Secretary Albright reminded the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference on Monday, is dramatically cutting its own nuclear arsenal. Other nations around the world are renouncing these weapons.

We and the rest of the world, as expressed in UN Security Council Resolution 1172, firmly believe it is in India's and Pakistan's own interests -- as well as the interest of the global community -- for them to move toward the international mainstream on this vital issue. They are two of the only four countries in the world that have not accepted the NPT. On these issues, Deputy Secretary Talbott and Foreign Minister Singh have held many rounds of dialogue. Many observers consider it one of the most intensive and substantive dialogues in the history of the U.S.-Indian relationship. The discussions will continue to follow up on the momentum created by the President's trip.

Our objectives in the near term are simple: we would like to see early signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by both India and Pakistan; strengthened export controls; cooperation in negotiating a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty and, pending its conclusion, a multilateral moratorium on production of such material; restraint in the development of missiles, including not deploying nuclear-capable missiles; and prudence in shaping defense postures.

Just as India judges that its security interests cannot be defined by reference to one neighbor, both India and Pakistan will appreciate that the decisions they take will affect the interests, thinking and decisions of other countries in the region and beyond. Above all, we want to see serious steps on both sides to reduce the chances of conflict, particularly nuclear conflict. With India we have just registered progress on a critical, though often overlooked, nonproliferation item: export controls. Indian officials informed us of a series of steps just taken to enhance India's controls on the export of sensitive technologies. Continuing convergence on this and other nonproliferation issues will remain high on our agenda with India, as we seek to find greater common ground in all areas and to narrow our differences in this one.

Let me now turn specifically to Pakistan. Ever since Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, our two countries, as President Clinton told the people of Pakistan during his recent visit, "have been partners." Pakistan, the President recalled, "helped the U.S. open a dialogue with China. We stood together when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Our partnership helped to end the Cold War. In many years since, we have cooperated in the fight against terrorism. Our soldiers have stood together in missions of peace in every part of the world." But over the past decade, U.S. relations with Pakistan have been troubled by a number of factors. First was the incontrovertible evidence of Pakistan's progress on a nuclear weapons program, which required us by law to impose sanctions that restricted our ties in certain areas. Those ties were further limited by Pakistan's pursuit of generally poor and protectionist economic policies, aggravated by widespread corruption, which sharply reduced the scope for bilateral cooperation in trade or investment, as it has also elsewhere in the region.

Most recently, we have been greatly concerned by Pakistan's support both for the Taliban in Afghanistan, in whose territory the now notorious Usama bin Laden finds shelter, and for militant groups that are escalating violence in Kashmir. Finally, of course, there is the serious departure from democracy caused by the October 12, 1999 military takeover. All these concerns, I must emphasize, do not argue for walking away from our longstanding ties with Pakistan. Quite the opposite: they make continued high-level engagement all the more urgent. It is in this context of historical friendship, current concerns, and desire to keep open lines of communication now and in the future that the President decided to include Pakistan on his visit last month and that we continue our contacts and work with Pakistan.

Let me touch on five issues where a very brief look ahead at our agenda with Pakistan is in order: nonproliferation, narcotics, democracy, economic reform, and terrorism. On non proliferation, I have already outlined both our main objectives, and our main means for pursuing them. I would just add that several leading Pakistanis have publicly pointed out that signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would promote Pakistan's own security interests -- and, as the President said in Islamabad, "the whole world will rally around" Pakistan if it does exactly that.

In Pakistan's long competition with India, this would be a striking first step. It could turn the competition from a downward spiral of malevolence to an upward one of benevolence. The President and Musharraf agreed, in this context, to reinvigorate our security and nonproliferation dialogue. In that regard, we look forward to Strobe Talbott and Foreign Minister Sattar meeting very soon. In the counternarcotics field, we applaud Pakistan's progress toward eliminating poppy cultivation and look forward to enhanced cooperation. With the impact Afghan opium and heroin have on Pakistan itself, certainly this is an area where we urge Pakistan to encourage the Taliban to take action. So too, we urge our friends in Pakistan to continue to do all they can to deal with the scourge of terrorism in their own country, in and from Afghanistan under the Taliban, and wherever else they can help.

On the issue of Pakistan's return to democracy, we welcome General Musharraf's announcement that local elections will be held by next year. We also believe that his pledge this week to protect human rights for all Pakistanis, and in that context to prevent or prosecute so-called "honor killings" of women, is another initial step in the right direction that we hope others in the region will emulate. We very much hope also to see more. Pakistan needs restoration of freedom of association and assembly and an impartial judiciary. In particular, we urge General Musharraf to move quickly toward a clear road map for a real rebirth of democracy, including fully functioning political parties and a free and fair national election at the earliest possible date.

In the economic sphere, we are encouraged by Pakistan's apparent intention, at long last, to reform its policies and institutions, work to root out corruption, and resolve international commercial disputes. Here again, as we look toward the future; actions as always will speak much louder than words. I believe that Pakistan has a last chance to save itself from economic stagnation, or worse. If it makes the right moves in this area, we and the international economic community will be prepared to lend appropriate support in offering its people prospects for a better life. President Clinton's televised address to the people of Pakistan during his visit addressed many troubling concerns in our relations, including the view of some that U.S. policy in South Asia and elsewhere is anti-Muslim.

On the contrary, the President affirmed the major examples of solidarity with Muslim populations in key regions of the world. He personally "stood with the people of Bosnia and Kosovo, who were brutalized because of their Muslim faith." He has "been privileged to speak with Palestinians at their National Council in Gaza." He has "mourned with Jordanians and Moroccans the loss of their brave leaders." At a White House ceremony marking the end of Ramadan this year, the President recalled, a Muslim imam cited the Koranic message that God created different nations so that we might learn from each other, not despise each other. And to the people of Pakistan, President Clinton declared that he was "proud to speak with you because I value our long friendship," which he said "can still be a force for tolerance and understanding throughout the world."

A second, quite different concern that has bedeviled Pakistan-American relations lately is the idea circulating in Pakistan that if events spiral further downward in Kashmir toward all out military conflict, it would somehow compel the U.S. to mediate that conflict and on more favorable terms. This notion, too, the President addressed. "International sympathy, support and intervention," he proclaimed, "cannot be won by provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict. On the contrary, sympathy and support will be lost." At the same time, the President expressed understanding for Pakistan's concerns about Kashmir, and a shared conviction that the human rights of all its people must be respected. The President made clear in his remarks to Pakistan's leaders and people the level of tension in and around and over Kashmir needs to be reduced.

Publicly and privately, the President urged mutual restraint by the parties, respect for the Line of Control, rejection of violence, and renewal of dialogue. The tragic cycle of violence continues to claim precious lives in Kashmir. Following the massacre of Sikhs last month by unknown assailants, allegations of encounter killings of Kashmiri civilians by Indian security forces led to violent demonstrations and further deaths as police opened fire. Later, during a militant attack in Srinagar, Kashmiri school children were killed in a crossfire. More recently, a suicide bomber injured a dozen civilians in a failed attack on a security post. Exchanges of artillery fire along the Line of Control regularly claim innocent victims on both sides. Accusations of blame for each incident will not stop the shooting and the suffering. History continues to show that a military solution to the Kashmir conflict is not possible. The only way to end the tragic violence is for both sides to commit to a political dialogue that takes broadly into account the wishes and interests of the people of Kashmir themselves.

Other issues also might be resolved apart from the broad question of Kashmir. For example, India and Pakistan were once very close to an agreement on the Siachen Glacier. Other border issues also could be cleared up, including Sirr Creek and Wullar Barrage. Perhaps economic cooperation between the two countries can be revived, leading to further efforts on political disputes. But even if these issues, or others like them, are not yet ready for definitive solutions, the two countries must find their own way to at least coexist in peace, and even better to begin their dialogue over all of these questions.

We thus hope that steps can be taken to improve the chances for dialogue between the two countries. And, in this regard, I believe the Indian government has recently taken a step in the right direction by releasing several leaders of the Kashmiri All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and indicating a willingness to talk with them. Reportedly, other Hurriyat leaders may be released soon. Apart from the APHC and those parties represented in the State assembly, there may be other segments of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir that will emerge as normal political activity becomes a less risky undertaking.

Today, the question is how best to move toward that objective of calming the conflict -- and the answer in our view -- is through peaceful dialogue between India and Pakistan, in the spirit of the Lahore meeting between their two leaders in February 1999. The Kargil incident not only did enormous damage to the prospects of dialogue symbolized by Lahore, it imposed new demands on the process by devaluing statements of intent and increasing the premium on actions. Kargil cannot be forgotten, but it can and should be transcended. In the past few weeks, General Musharraf has repeatedly offered to meet with India, and we are asking New Delhi to consider very seriously the possibilities for resuming this dialogue. But Pakistan now should do its part to help create the peaceful conditions needed to make such a dialogue meaningful. This need not be a matter of public fanfare, proclamations or even comments; what matters most is to be able to see the reality on the ground.

Let me now turn to another country visited by the President: Bangladesh. In less than 30 years of independence, this nation of more than 120 million people has managed to transform itself, against great odds, into a model both of a moderate Muslim democracy and a grass-roots based economic development. Bangladesh set an example for the entire region on nonproliferation by ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in March. The President's visit, the first ever to Bangladesh, celebrated these achievements and, more importantly, set the stage for more. Follow-up efforts are already underway in several important areas.

As with India, we look forward to working with Bangladesh in launching an international Community of Democracies effort in Warsaw, Poland, in June. Bangladesh's participation in this important initiative -- as well as its own free and fair exercise of the right to vote in national elections next year -- offers yet another opportunity to support Bangladesh's democracy. While in Bangladesh, the President met with both Prime Minister Hasina and Opposition Leader Zia and urged them to avoid the politics of confrontation and to strengthen the spirit of compromise and cooperation necessary in any democracy. We also want to work with Bangladesh to develop its economic potential, and a big part of that means bolstering our increasing trade and investment relationship. Those ties have grown dramatically in the past several years.

American investment, mostly in the energy sector, will soon approach $1 billion, with Bangladeshi garment exports to the United States nearing $2 billion a year. These sectors are economically significant, and in the case of energy, there is the added potential for the development of regional cooperation. But it is clear that we can expand beyond these sectors to areas such as telecommunications, financial services, and infrastructure. The key will be renewed commitment to economic reform, and cooperation between investors and the government in keeping the investment pipeline running smoothly and efficiently. We want to see Bangladesh's economy thrive, but we also want to work with Bangladesh as it addresses its many environmental and social challenges.

We have launched a creative "debt for nature" pilot project designed to preserve the unique tropical forests of the Bangladeshi coast. We are supporting World Bank efforts to deal with the serious problem of arsenic contamination of groundwater. Similarly, we will be working together to extend to additional sectors Bangladesh's successful efforts to end child labor in its garment export industry, and to lift people out of poverty with small-scale private enterprise development through micro-lending, especially to women. Reviewing the U.S. relationship with these three largest countries of the region just visited by President Clinton, one can extrapolate several broad themes of our engagement for the future: economic reform, social development, and integration into the international mainstream on nonproliferation and peaceful conflict resolution, among others.

But there is also one overarching issue -- democracy. Scholars and diplomats alike are increasingly convinced that democracy is the best promoter for the greatest measure of progress in all of these other areas as well. That is why, in preparing the President's trip and in looking ahead today, we attach so much importance to the strength of democracy in both India and Bangladesh, and to the restoration of civilian, democratic rule in Pakistan. And that is also a crucial ingredient of our overall approach to this entire region -- including development in some of its smaller but still significant states, in which the future of democracy is among the important interests we pursue. To take one example, we strongly support the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka's arduous campaign to resist separatist violence, and its bold offer to negotiate new arrangements for the Tamil minority on the island through peaceful political means.

While we are disappointed at the continuing violence in the North of the country, we are encouraged that both the government of President Kumaratunga and the leading opposition party are coming closer together on a joint approach on autonomy for the northern and eastern parts of the country, home to most Sri Lankan Tamils. We offer our support for this approach, while calling upon Sri Lankan government forces to adopt the strongest measures to prevent civilian casualties and human rights abuses. We hope that the military reverses suffered by the Sri Lankan government in the Jaffna peninsula earlier this week will not derail its efforts to settle this dispute on honorable terms.

Another case in point is Nepal. This country, which this year proudly celebrates its first decade of full democracy, confronts a violent Maoist insurgency and severe poverty. We support the government's admirable efforts to stay on the path of democracy and development. I would also note that Nepal's sense of civic engagement extends well beyond the country's borders, as demonstrated by Nepal's frequent participation in peacekeeping operations and in providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of refugees.

At the other end of this spectrum, unfortunately, is Afghanistan. There have been some small and scattered improvements lately in the Taliban's egregious treatment of women and girls, and we remain open to dialogue with Taliban representatives on this and all other urgent matters. On the whole, however, this is a regime which, by its behavior at home and abroad, has isolated itself from virtually the entire world, and increasingly from its own people. In the long run, only a representative government that includes all parts of the Afghan community can bring peace to this tragically tortured land. This will require the participation not only of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, but also of other Afghans inside and outside the country.

The United States is encouraged by the efforts of Afghans around the world to contribute to the search for peace. We believe Pakistan can exert considerable influence on the Taliban and support its initiative to find common ground with Iran to work together on a peaceful solution of Afghanistan's civil war. Unfortunately, we see little movement on either front at this stage and the international community is, once again, beginning to look at what steps it can take to address our multitude of concerns in Afghanistan -- terrorism, narcotics, human rights, and ending the two-decade long conflict.

The UN Security Council, in Resolution 1267 last year, unanimously imposed targeted sanctions because of the continuing presence in Afghanistan of Usama bin Laden and terrorist training facilities -- sanctions that affect only the Taliban and principally its leader, while providing unimpeded humanitarian access for all the people of Afghanistan. Just a few weeks ago, the Security Council prefigured further action if bin Laden is not brought to account. And last week, the UN Commission on Human Rights, by consensus, not only condemned Taliban policies but also called upon all nations to stop supporting them.

The isolation of Afghanistan will only increase unless steps are taken now to address the international community's deep concerns. To return for a final moment to a broader view of the region, all across South Asia we see some of the most important challenges of this new century in play. They range from the universal striving for democracy through the gamut of global security, technological innovation and economic growth, to environmental and other issues that will define our interdependence in the coming years. In some of the largest countries of the region - which are also among the largest in the world -- the promise of this new era is correspondingly great. In others, while we currently have great cause for concern, we are determined to maintain the kind of engagement that offers the best hope of advancing our interests, and those of a more peaceful and prosperous planet.

The goal is certainly worth the effort: I hope to see a South Asia with no more conflict, no more fissile material for use in weapons, and no perceived need to test nuclear weapons; with Kashmiris engaged creatively in a future of peace and prosperity, working in ways that bring Pakistan and India closer together. My vision includes prosperity, with a common market and open borders, with local and Central Asian energy resources available to all and where the militaries work together to solve regional problems and contribute to world peace rather than to arm and plan for war against each other.

Late next month, I hope to travel to the region to pursue these and other issues further. South Asia is destined to play a growing part on the world stage. American engagement in the region is sure to increase in intensity in the years ahead. The active involvement of all of you here today will be an essential element in ensuring that we conduct this engagement successfully. We expect, and very much desire, a great future for the region, its people, and its relationship with the United States.

I deeply appreciate your being here today and your kind attention and I look forward to your comments and questions on these important issues.

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