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Bush Administration And Plebiscite

Statement by the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs at the House International Relations Committee - Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, July 18, 2002

Bush Administration And Plebiscite
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Apart from the following prepared text, Ms. Rocca responded to the Republican Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher of California, who wanted to know where the Bush administration stood on the issue of plebiscite. Mr. Rohrabacher, in his opening remarks, had argued that much of the instability in the sub-continent stemmed from the "unwillingness, arrogance and intransigence'' on the part of India for not permitting the people of Kashmir the "right to control their own destiny''.

Mrs. Rocca responded by saying:

"... The U.S. supported successive U.N. efforts... But in 1972, India and Pakistan reached an agreement (Shimla) that it would be a bilateral issue. We support India and Pakistan and we are working towards getting these two countries to the table to resolve the issue,'' the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca, said at a hearing in a House International Relations Sub-Committee.

Full text of the prepared statement:

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee,

Thank you for inviting me to speak today about developments in South Asia and our policy responses. Since September 11, South Asia has often been in the headlines here, both as a principal focus of our war on terrorism, and because of the crisis between India and Pakistan. I will discuss both of those subjects today, but I also want to talk about our broader policy concerns in the region, fundamental issues that will determine our relationships with the South Asian states, that have an impact on the war on terrorism and efforts to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan and that have a strong effect on our interests, some of them vital, in surrounding areas.

Many of these concerns involve India and Pakistan , two very important countries in their own right. As Secretary Powell said during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony July 9, we want to make sure that both the Indians and the Pakistanis understand that the United States is interested in them beyond this crisis. We have a strong and growing relationship with India, a transformed relationship in the economic, scientific and security fields that has permitted a degree of cooperation following the September 11 attacks that would have been unthinkable even two years ago. With Pakistan as well, we have broken free of over a decade's difficult relationship, as that country sets a course of moderation and cooperation with the United States. But we have important interests in other countries in South Asia. In Nepal, a major rural insurgency threatens to destabilize the country. In Sri Lanka, a long-standing civil war may be starting to move toward resolution, but the process is likely to be long and difficult. Chronic political rivalries and violence compound a serious law and order problem in Bangladesh and pose a danger to the young democracy in that country. And, of course, there is the long-term question of Afghanistan's future. Following the encouraging success of the Loya Jirga process, a fragile transitional government is trying to bring stability to a country torn by almost a quarter century of war.

Counterterrorism

Mr. Chairman, our relationships with South Asian states have been central to our successful prosecution of the war on terrorism. All have been fully supportive, and their support in this war has been, and will continue to be, absolutely crucial. Afghanistan is currently the main battleground in the conflict, and without the close cooperation of Afghans and the Afghan government, our efforts there would be severely constrained. Pakistan continues to provide critical backing to Operation Enduring Freedom by supporting Coalition activity in Afghanistan and through its direct actions against al-Qaida and Taliban operatives in Pakistan. India was one of the first countries to offer support after September 11. Today it is supporting Coalition naval operations, cooperating closely in counterterrorism activities and participating in international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Bangladesh, the third largest Muslim country in the world, has had an important role in establishing that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam. We will continue to work closely with all the countries of South Asia in tracking and defeating al Qaida terrorists and addressing the social and political conditions that foster extremism.

India-Pakistan

Mr. Chairman, the encouraging progress in South Asia toward prosperity and democracy is too often overshadowed by the specter of war between India and Pakistan. We remain deeply concerned over the high levels of tension between India and Pakistan and in particular about the continued deployment of forces along their shared border and within Kashmir. A surge in violence could spark a military confrontation, with long-lasting and devastating consequences for the entire region. The enemies of moderation in the region are aware of this fact and are trying to exploit it through high-profile terrorist attacks, such as that outside of Jammu this past Saturday.

As Secretary Powell has put it, war is just not an option for India and Pakistan. The only way forward that offers a prospect of genuinely resolving their differences is the path of dialogue and confidence building. We are working to help the two sides find mutually acceptable ways to begin the de-escalation process. President Musharraf has pledged that infiltration into Kashmir from his country will end permanently. Pakistan needs to keep that pledge in order to begin a process of resolution of the immediate crisis and of its more fundamental differences with India. Once tensions begin to subside, the process should be continued by New Delhi agreeing to resume talks with Islamabad on all issues, including Kashmir. We also are supportive of Indian efforts to conduct free and fair elections in the state of Kashmir scheduled for later this year, and to begin to address Kashmiri grievances. Such elections could proceed with much greater chance of success in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation and serve as a first step towards resolution of the issue. Finally, we will continue to offer our good offices in helping the two sides resume dialogue to resolve their differences.

In about a week, Secretary Powell will be visiting India and Pakistan for the second time since January. The United States and others in the international community are staying fully engaged with both countries to reduce current tensions and to help them get on course to resolve their differences. This week, British Foreign Secretary Straw is making his second trip there since May. Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Armitage were there in June.

India:

Mr. Chairman, I'd now like to turn to developments in our relationships with the countries of South Asia, starting with India.

India is an increasingly important player in world affairs. From the start of his Administration, President Bush has sought to effect the transformation of the U.S. relationship with India. We are engaging with India on a wide range of issues. From counter-terrorism, to security issues, climate change and commerce, to strengthening democracy and fighting HIV/AIDS, the President has looked to India as a partner.

We are working ever more closely with India on military cooperation. Our military forces are now actively developing the capability to work together effectively through joint exercises, planning and senior level visits. The Defense Planning Group, which has met twice since December, provides the framework for military planning and coordination. Within that framework we are discussing technological and research and development cooperation, sales and licensing issues and peacekeeping cooperation.

Nonproliferation remains an important item on our bilateral agenda, which we hope to address through cooperation and mutual understanding. We have agreed to institutionalize our bilateral dialogue on nonproliferation and security issues as part our discussions on the broader Strategic Framework and hope to kick off the first round in September. One area in which there is great scope for cooperation is on export controls. We have already had a series of expert-level discussions and conducted training for Indian customs officials. This cooperation should expand over time, encompassing dialogue, information sharing, training and other assistance. We are confident that the Indian government shares our concerns about preventing the spread of sensitive technologies since the diffusion of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and missiles pose a serious threat to the security of both our countries. We are also continuing to discuss with both India and Pakistan confidence-building measures to minimize the risks that nuclear weapons might actually be used, and steps they can take to bring the arms race in South Asia to the earliest possible close.

U.S.-India counterterrorism cooperation is rapidly maturing. It has contributed to the arrest of many terrorists around the world. The US-India Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism predates 9/11 and continues to expand and deepen. It held its fifth session in Washington July 11 and 12. Our cooperation includes intelligence sharing, training, countering terrorism finance and money laundering, improving border security, combating cyber-terrorism and providing mutual legal assistance. Our joint diplomatic efforts against terrorism have been unprecedented in our relationship. We have worked together in the UN to build support for UNSCR 1373 and the India-sponsored Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism. The United States and India have moved in unison to strangle the financial assets of terrorists.

On broader law enforcement issues, we also are steadily increasing the number of our joint activities. We signed a new bilateral treaty last October providing for mutual legal assistance and cooperation that makes it easier for American and Indian law enforcement agencies to assist each other in investigating international crime. Additionally, the United States and India have a new extradition treaty containing modern provisions.

Our two democracies are working together more intensely than ever before to make the world freer, more peaceful, and more prosperous. Our collaboration can only make the world a safer and more just place.

In the economic sphere, the pace of our engagement has also picked up. Though this is one area where more can be done, our commercial relationship with is growing too slowly and requires New Delhi to pursue important second generation reforms. Since January, we've seen visits by senior USG officials from the Departments of Treasury, Energy and Commerce and from the Environmental Protection Agency. During the same period, Ministers Sinha and Mahajan and other cabinet rank officers of the Indian Government have been in the United States for productive discussions with their counterparts. We look forward to enhancing these kinds of interactions under the framework of the US-India Economic Dialogue, which the President and Prime Minister reinvigorated last November. With the active participation of our respective private sectors, we are hopeful that the Economic Dialogue can and will play an important role in helping us realize the enormous potential of our economic relationship.

An area of great potential for Indo-U.S. relations is in trade and commercial cooperation. India's economy has expanded rapidly since reforms in the early 1990s. Exports to the U.S. have more than doubled since 1995. But this commercial relationship is growing too slowly. In order to fully exploit this economic potential, New Delhi must continue to pursue important second-generation reforms.

Pakistan

 In Pakistan, President Musharraf is setting his country on a bold new course and has a genuine opportunity to build a prosperous, progressive, and tolerant Islamic state. President Musharraf, recognizing the danger that extremism poses to his country, has denounced it and vowed to prevent the use of Pakistan as a base for extremists. His government has banned all of the major extremist groups, frozen their assets, and arrested many of their members. Pakistan authorities are working hand in hand with U.S. agencies in tracking and capturing remaining al Qaida elements that have fled to Pakistan. Pakistani troops have arrested al Qaida fighters in the Northwest Frontier Province who had fled Coalition operations in Afghanistan. Pakistani police have made numerous arrests of al Qaida and other extremists throughout their country. More than ten Pakistani soldiers have died in such operations. The extremists, showing how threatened they feel by President Musharraf's actions, have struck back. They have killed scores of Pakistanis and targeted westerners in Karachi and Islamabad. The government has not been intimidated; instead it has continued its campaign against terrorists and their supporters. On July 15, the Pakistani court in Hyderabad sentenced Omar Saeed Sheikh to death and the three other accomplices to life in prison for their role in the kidnapping/murder of Daniel Pearl. We were gratified by this verdict, an important step in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this crime. We are standing by Pakistan as it faces the brutal challenge of these ruthless extremists.

Our Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism and Law Enforcement met for the first time in Washington in May. Pakistan Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider and a delegation of senior officials met with officials in the Departments of State and Justice, the FBI and INS to develop a closer working relationship to enhance Pakistan's law enforcement and terrorist interdiction capabilities. We will be providing $3 million in assistance to enhance the capabilities of the Karachi Criminal Division, which has been on the forefront of combating terrorism in this violence-ridden city. It was here that Danny Pearl was kidnapped, where a car bomb at the Sheraton killed 11 French soldiers, and where the U.S. Consulate was bombed on June 14. The Joint Working Group also addressed where both sides could be more responsive to law enforcement requests.

President Musharraf's government recognizes that extremism feeds on economic and social dislocation. It is taking positive actions on economic and social reform. Pakistan has completed its IMF program. USAID has also begun implementing programs to improve basic education in Pakistan and support Musharraf's efforts at educational reforms. We intend to enhance these efforts in the next fiscal year. Poor quality of schools and lack of access to educational opportunities in Pakistan have resulted in the growth of the madrassas, some of which inculcate intolerance and extremism in Pakistani youth. The government has put an ambitious program into action for revamping Pakistan's education system, which includes bringing the madrassas, or religious schools, under control. Outside help for the country's madrassas is being monitored and they must now submit to curriculum standards in order to receive government support.

We are supporting Islamabad in its efforts to root out extremism and to promote economic, social, and political reform. During President Musharraf's visit to Washington in February, President Bush pledged to work with Congress in providing Pakistan with debt relief for fiscal year 2003; announced a multi-year $100 million assistance program for education; and agreed to provide increased market access for about $142 million in Pakistani apparel exports each year for the next three years.

It is in our national interest, and in the interest of all of Pakistan's neighbors, for Pakistan to develop into a more stable, economically sound, and better-educated society. The government has set parliamentary elections for October. President Musharraf recently addressed his nation about the plans of his government for political reform. We view the restoration of democracy and civilian rule within a constitutional framework as crucial to fostering long-term stability in Pakistan. Toward this end, we are moving forward in providing over $2 million in election assistance to Pakistan to help train polling monitors, sponsor voter education and ~get-out-the-voteE campaigns, and, after the elections, to help train newly elected provincial and national parliamentarians, particularly women.

With regard to nonproliferation issues, the U.S. and Pakistan met in Washington last March for a round of talks on regional and global nonproliferation issues. As with India, we have urged both sides to take steps to prevent a costly and destabilizing arms race in the region and to assist U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of technologies that could assist WMD/missile programs in other regions. The U.S. has offered assistance to help Pakistan bring its export controls up to international standards.

Afghanistan

Long a source of instability in the region and beyond, Afghanistan is now moving toward stability and peace , slowly and haltingly at times, but the direction is clear. The demise of the Taliban, the destruction of al Qaida infrastructure, the return of former King Zahir Shah, the emergency Loya Jirga and the establishment of a new government are the first steps in getting this war-ravaged country back on its feet.But all this is only a beginning. Continuing instability and violence, such as the recent assassination of an Afghan vice president, are constant reminders that a great deal remains to be done.

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