The Council on Foreign Relations sponsored this project in early 1996 because it felt that changing circumstances (detailed in the report) called for a thorough reconsideration of the US approach to the major power of South Asia. The task force was charged with surveying the situation and current US policy, and coming up with recommendations for US policymak-ers. The transition to a new administration, in turn, provides a useful opportunity to contribute to public and governmental debate on the subject.
Can the report persuade US policy-makers to move beyond equating India with Pakistan?
I'm not sure that they currently do so, although I know that perception is widespread in India. Certainly, the task force report argues forcefully against any such equation, recognising the difference in Pakistan and India's situation and laying out separate policies specially tailored for each.
Some people see the task force's conclusions as a vindication of India's recent hard line on issues such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
I've been amused too by some early stories in the Indian press which see the task force conclusion as a vindication of India's (position on the CTBT).... Some have even called, on this basis, for further developments in the Indian nuclear weapon and missile programmes! In fact, the report should not be taken as licence for, or encouragement of, any further destabilising moves in the nuclear weapon or missile arenas by either India or Pakistan, which would most likely lead to an increased arms race between them.
Until now, the Indian subcontinent has not been considered a high priority area for the US State Department and the Pentagon. Why should this report change the minds of policymakers?
Because the issues at stake regarding each country are increasing, as the report mentions in detail. In many ways, the report expresses views which are gaining widespread acceptance within certain areas of the executive branch, but have not bubbled to the surface because of the domination of public and Congressional debate by what one might call non-proliferation theology.