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The President's Trip to South Asia

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 16, 2000


The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:25 P.M. EST

MR. HAMMER: Good afternoon. Today we have the President's National Security Advisor, Samuel R. Berger; and Deputy National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard; and the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Rick Inderfurth are here to brief you on the President's upcoming trip to South Asia.

MR. BERGER: Good afternoon. Let me talk for a few minutes about why we're going and what we're going to do. The President, as you know, will leave Saturday for a weeklong journey to South Asia. He will travel to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and be the first President to visit South Asia in 22 years.

It's a region that faces enormous challenges, as we all know, but also is beginning to realize its extraordinary promise. There may be no place in the world where so many issues of importance to our future come together so dramatically -- from conflict resolution to the information revolution, from political reform to nuclear restraint, from the environment to the gap between rich and poor. What happens in South Asia will have a strong impact on the security and prosperity of the American people for many years.

Most of South Asians, of course, over a billion live in India, one of the fastest growing economies and most vibrant democracies in the world. It's appropriate that the world's oldest democracy, the United States, and its largest democracy, India, place their relationship on a sounder footing.

For 50 years, America's relationship with India has been viewed through the prism of the Cold War and its aftermath. President Clinton has been determined to get this partnership on track, for the benefit of Americans and Indians alike. We want to deepen ties between our governments, our private sectors, our scientists, our citizens.

As we pursue renewed partnership, we must also address important differences with India and, of course, with Pakistan. The President will discuss these issues directly with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, and General Musharraf in Pakistan.

Nuclear tests by Indian and Pakistan in 1998 shook the world, creating intensified concern about nuclear proliferation and nuclear conflict. India and Pakistan have committed not to test further, but they have not yet joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Each has legitimate security concerns, but our view is that a nuclear future is a dangerous future -- for them and for the world.

At a time when the United States and Russia have moved toward progressively deeper cuts in our nuclear arsenals, at a time when many other countries around the world have given up their nuclear programs, South Asia should not be headed in the opposite direction. Narrowing our differences on nonproliferation is important to realizing the full potential of our relationship.

The President will make plain our conviction that India and Pakistan cannot be secure unless they engage in dialogue to resolve tensions between them. India and Pakistan took a promising step when their leaders met at Lahore last year. But that goodwill evaporated during last summer's fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir.

President Clinton's supportive role in defusing the Kargil crisis last July helped build trust with the United States. But the ultimate obligation for addressing the conflict rests with India and Pakistan. The President is not going to South Asia to mediate the dispute between them. But he will urge them to exercise restraint and resume dialogue. Two nations who offer so much to the world should not condemn their children to a dangerous future. They should choose instead the path toward peace.

Finally, of course, the President is going to Pakistan, traveling there in the wake of a military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected Prime Minister. To be clear, this is not an endorsement of the military government in Pakistan. Rather, it is a sensible decision on the part of the President to keep America's lines of communication open with Pakistan, to urge the steps we believe are important to peace and to stability in the region, an early return to democracy, respect for the line of control in Kashmir, a crackdown on terrorist groups and restraint on nuclear and missile programs.

Now, let me rather briefly take you through the trip schedule day by day. The President will arrive in New Delhi on Sunday evening. Monday morning, he will travel to Bangladesh -- the first U.S. President ever to visit Bangladesh.

Since that Muslim nation of 120 million achieved independence in 1971, in defiance of some predictions, it has made impressive strides in combatting poverty and building an inclusive democracy. Women, including Prime Minister Hasina, head the two major and intentionally rivalrous parties. Bangladesh stands with us in fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Last week, it ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

He'll meet with the Prime Minister in Dhaka and highlight new initiatives on energy cooperation and tropical forest conservation. Then the President will go to a nearby village with Mohammad Yunus, known worldwide as the banker to the poor. Mr. Yunus and his Grameen Bank have been pioneers of microcredit. I first heard his name from then-Governor Clinton perhaps 20 years ago.

They will meet with small entrepreneurs who have risen from poverty through microcredit loans from the Grameen Bank. The President will visit a school, get a glimpse of the efforts of Bangladesh with U.S. support, to keep children in school as an alternative to child labor. He'll attend an official dinner in Bangladesh and then will return to Delhi.

Tuesday, he'll meet with Prime Minister Vajpayee. I expect they will address the larger political issues that concern us -- instability and conflict in South Asia, how to manage it; nuclear weapons; and key economic and global issues such as economic cooperation between the two countries, challenges like AIDS and the environment, India's role in Asia, and the future of the U.S.-Indian relationship.

I expect that the two leaders will sign a vision statement outlining the goals and principles that should guide our relationship going forward. The President will then lay a wreath at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and attend a state dinner.

Wednesday, the President will address the Indian Parliament. He will talk about our common aims as well as our differences. He will then meet with the opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi. And then Ambassador Dick Celeste will host a reception including prominent Indians and Indian Americans, and Fulbright alumni celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright educational exchange program in India. And I believe Mrs. Fulbright will join us for that.

Then later on Wednesday we will go to Agra. He'll see, and we'll see, the Taj Mahal. To preserve the area, the authorities there have created a zero-air-pollution zone. Only electric power vehicles are permitted to move people around. Industrial emissions have been reduced substantially. India is an energy-poor country, and how and where it develops new energy sources will be critical to its ability to combat environmental dangers and grow in an environmentally sound manner. In Agra, the U.S. and India will sign an agreement to increase cooperation on the environment, and the President will announce a package of initiatives to promote clean energy and combat climate change.

Thursday, the President will visit Jaipur, a center of traditional culture with historic palaces, also the capital of the modernizing state of Rajasthan. In a nearby village, he'll meet with members of the local governing council and discuss how village democracy functions in India. These traditional bodies were expanded after independence to include women and former untouchables. The President will also visit a park where Indians are working to preserve their endangered tiger population, an effort for which the United States has provided assistance.

Friday morning we will be in Hyderabad, nicknamed "Cyberbad," one of the two key cities in India's burgeoning Silicon Valley, or perhaps Silicon Valley is America's burgeoning Cyberbad. This is a good place for the President to focus on science and technology and the explosion that is taking place in India. He'll be accompanied there by the State's Chief Minister Naidu, who is deploying information technology not only for economic growth in that region, but also to make government work better for citizens.

The President will visit a clinic to participate in immunizing children against disease, in particular polio, a disease that India has almost eradicated.

That day, March 24th, is World Tuberculosis Awareness Day. Experts estimate that more than 2 million people in India develop active TB each year. But India now is fighting back and they've pioneered aggressive new treatments which are being used worldwide, including in the United States. And he'll observe an application of one of those treatments to a clinic patient.

India has more cases of AIDS than any other country in the world. About 4 million Indians are HIV positive, and the spread of AIDS has aggravated the TB epidemic. The President will discuss with health care workers there what we and India are doing and can do together with research and national leadership to combat TB and HIV-AIDS and malaria. He will then visit the high-tech City Office Complex to get a closer look at India's thriving information technology center.

Ten years ago, this sector did $150 million in business. Last year, it did $3.9 billion. Meanwhile, people of Indian origin run more than 750 technology companies in California's Silicon Valley alone. The President will talk about these links and how the United States and India can take our technology and our economic partnership to the next level.

The President then will travel to Mumbai, the city formerly know as Bombay; India's Wall Street, its economic capital, the fifth-largest city in the world. He'll have a chance to sit down with representatives of the next generation, some young people, some younger Indians, to discuss the future and how they see the evolution of India. And he'll end the day with a reception with business leaders.

On Saturday, we will travel to Pakistan. The President will meet with Pakistan's Chief Executive -- excuse me, first he'll meet with Pakistan's President Tarar, and then he'll meet with the Chief Executive General Musharraf. After those meetings, the President will deliver a televised address directly to the people of Pakistan, our longtime friends, about our hopes for Pakistan and our concerns about its future. We will then depart for home.

And now I'll ask Lael Brainard, Deputy Director of the NEC, to address some of the economic issues.

MS. BRAINARD: Thanks, Sandy. I just want to speak very briefly and expand upon the economic agenda that Sandy touched on. This is an important region with really enormous development challenges; as Sandy suggested, enormous promise, but still an area of stark economic contrasts. There is progress as both economies, both Bangladesh and India, have been undertaking reform and opening to trade and investment; but it's slow and the challenges are quite remarkable.

This trip is an opportunity for us to deepen our economic engagement with both economies, and there are several opportunities that the President will take to do so. Let me just elaborate a little bit.

In the case of Bangladesh, it is really one of the poorest, most densely-populated countries in the world. It has a population of 127 million living in an area the size of Wisconsin. And there is a poverty rate there that remains at 45 percent, despite significant progress.

Growth has averaged 5 percent over the past few years; fertility rates have dropped and a variety of social indicators have improved. And in particular, there's been a real deepening of the trade relationship with the United States, with their exports to us jumping by nearly two-thirds over the past 5 years. There's also large potential for natural gas development.

In terms of the stops that the President mentioned, the President will visit a world village at which we will be able to announce some initiatives in two areas that are particularly innovative in our development agenda and which have been very high priorities over the last few years. As you may know, the President has placed a high priority on reducing child labor, not through reducing opportunities, but rather by giving children educational opportunities at the same time families are given alternative income generating opportunities. And we have done that through the Department of Labor and also through the ILO, through the international program to eliminate child labor.

We're going to go to a site in Bangladesh where that program will be in operation, and it's really a remarkable story of cooperation between the government of Bangladesh and the United States, which over time has removed over 10,000 children from garment jobs and other such employment.

As Sandy also mentioned, we will be meeting with Dr. Mohammad Yunus, who is really the grandfather of microenterprise, which was started in Bangladesh and really is one of the development initiatives that has been brought into the developed world and used widely in our inner cities. It's a development initiative that has taken capital and placed it in the hands of the poorest, and enterprise has flourished.

In India, there is in full view a stark contrast between the traditional economy and really the most modern segments of the economy. India's pool of trained scientists and engineers is second only to our own. Yet the same system that has produced this large pool of scientifically trained graduates coexists with a system which half of the women do not have literacy skills. So you'll see real contrasts here.

The President will be visiting both extremes of modern India, visiting a village in an agricultural rural area where 25 percent of the population is still working in the agricultural area; and then also going to, as Sandy suggested, the Silicon Valley equivalent, Hyderabad, which is transforming the way of life for millions of Indians.

It's worth noting just in terms of the contrast in this economy that their largest export is textiles and apparel, which is very traditional for a developing economy, at 25 percent, but the second-largest export is engineering goods, which is very, very unusual. The Prime Minister has set a goal of making the country and information technology superpower and a leading exporter of software within the next 10 years, and it looks very likely that those goals are achievable.

In terms of the broader economic picture for India, it has great potential. It's been growing relatively quickly over the last few years, 7 to 8 percent. There was a first generation of economic reforms in the early 1990s that took some of the controls out of the economy. Now it is time, as the Prime Minister has said, for a second wave of reforms. This reform agenda that Prime Minister Vajpayee has articulated is extremely ambitious. It includes things like liberalizing trade and investment, tax reform, reductions in the civil service ranks, reform of labor laws -- a whole variety of things that we think will be quite difficult, but well worth achieving.

There is an important crossroads right now in the Indian economy that really is represented by these two extremes, and given the government's interest in reform and commitment to reform, it's an important opportunity for us to engage with the Indians. We are hoping to be able to deepen and institutionalize our economic engagement across a whole host of areas -- financial markets, macroeconomics, commercial and trade -- and the President will be discussing all of those issues with the Prime Minister. Thank you.

Q Sandy, when the President said in the statement today that he won't accept the nuclear status quo in India and Pakistan, what does he mean by that? And he says -- well, specifically, what does he mean? And what does it take to narrow the differences that would establish a better relationship?

MR. BERGER: Well, obviously, only India and Pakistan, ultimately sovereign nations, can decide on their security. But our view is they are not more secure with nuclear weapons than they would be without them. And our ultimate goal would be to persuade them to give up their nuclear programs.

Now, in the meantime, we've been engaged with them in a dialogue over the last -- more than a year, particularly a dialogue conducted by Deputy Secretary Talbott, Secretary Inderfurth, and their Indian and Pakistani counterparts, in which we've urged them to do several things that could decrease the level of tensions. One, join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They have both announced and both committed to no further tests, but we would like to see them in the Comprehensive Test Ban regime.

Second, we've encouraged them to exercise restraint in their nuclear programs. The Indians, for example, have articulated a doctrine of limited nuclear deterrence, and we have urged them to implement a policy that does limit the expansion of these programs.

Third, we have encouraged both of them to stop the production of fissile material, which is the fuel, in a sense, for nuclear weapons, and to join with us in seeking to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty. Those negotiations are ongoing. They have participated in those negotiations.

And finally, we've encouraged them to put in place serious export controls on the goods and equipment and material related to their nuclear program, so that they're not proliferating. And in that area there has been some progress, particularly with the Indians.

So I would say this dialogue has been useful. There's been some steps, limited progress. But we will urge them to take further steps.

Q There are reports that bin Laden is gravely ill. Do you know anything about it?

MR. BERGER: Well, again, I'm not going to -- you know I won't comment on intelligence reports. Mr. bin Laden is someone who has been of interest to us for some time, we believe has been responsible for terrorist attacks against the United States. And we would like to see him brought to justice.

Q Would his demise be good news for the United States?

MR. BERGER: Well, we would like to see him brought to justice.

Q Do you know anything about those reports, or are you just --

MR. BERGER: I'm just not going to comment on intelligence reports.

Q Mr. President, I represent a newspaper in Pakistan -- and you just said that the visit of President Clinton is not tantamount to an endorsement of the military government of General Musharraf, and this is a statement made by so many officials recently. In the first week of February, President Clinton accepted credentials from an ambassador nominated by General Musharraf. So can you enlighten us on the obvious difference between recognizing the government of General Musharraf and embracing it?

MR. BERGER: We recognize a lot of governments that we have strong disagreements with, so it is not an equivalent. In diplomacy, you have diplomatic relations and deal with countries whose practices and policies you may disagree with. It has been our belief that while we disapprove of the way in which democracy was overturned in Pakistan and would seek an early return to democracy, as well as other steps from the Pakistani government, that it is better for the United States and better for the region for us to maintain a line of communication with the government of Pakistan during particularly difficult times. And I don't think that maintaining a line of communication is the same thing as endorsing it.

Q That's not the way they see it.

MR. BERGER: Well, you know, there's a very interesting editorial in one of the Indian newspapers -- I don't know whether it was yours or not.

Q I'm from Pakistan. That's already a problem, telling the difference. (Laughter.)

MR. BERGER: Oh, excuse me. I'm sorry. You asked the question in a way I thought had an Indian spin. There was an interesting editorial in an Indian newspaper which said that really -- think about this -- the Indians really shouldn't be too concerned about the President going there, for all the reasons I said, and the fact that the President of the United States and all of his people are saying clearly, we do not endorse this government, actually is exactly what the Indians would like to see. So I don't think that -- again, that stopping there, having a discussion with the General, speaking directly in a television address to the people of Pakistan; I believe that is in the interest of the United States --

Q Is there a quid pro quo on him going to Pakistan -- if he had a public forum? There were reports.

MR. BERGER: No. The President made his decision, and we said that we would like to go to the President's house. The President is an elected President in Pakistan, a holdover from the previous government. We would like to do our events from there, our meetings there. And we'd like to address the people of Pakistan directly and live on television. And they agreed to that.

Q On the TV address in Pakistan, first of all, do you have guarantees that this will be widely available without impediment throughout Pakistan? And secondly, could you talk about what message the President will send in that TV address?

MR. BERGER: I have no reason to believe it will not be. I believe that this will be live, and I have no reason to believe it would not be widely available. No information that I have received to the contrary, has suggested to the contrary.

I think the President will speak to the Pakistani people. He will talk about the long relationship that the United States has had with the people of Pakistan, our high regard for the people of Pakistan, but our concerns about things that are happening in Pakistan, because we're concerned about Pakistan's future. We're concerned about its nuclear program. We're concerned about tension across the line of control in Kashmir. We're concerned about terrorism. We're concerned about seeing a path back to democracy. And I think the President will talk about all of those things to the people of Pakistan and with great respect.

Q Sandy, when was the last time the President made a live address to a foreign country, to the people of that country?

MR. BERGER: Well, there was -- well, I don't know how to answer that question, Chuck. I'd have to do a little research and get back. Obviously, the President has talked in press conferences. But an address, I think Russia maybe, but I'm not sure of that. I'm not sure exactly if the format was exactly the same.

Q Sandy, can the U.S. really get India to back away from the nuclear option and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty when the United States's own Senate refused to ratify it?

MR. BERGER: Well, I would have preferred the United States Senate to have ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But I think that the President has made clear that we intend to adhere to the Test Ban Treaty. We've signed the Test Ban Treaty, which the Indians have not done. They have announced, as have the Pakistanis, that they would abide by a testing moratorium. We hope they will continue to live up to that. It obviously would be far preferable for it to be reflected in adherence to the CTBT. I certainly don't expect that to happen before we go or while we're there, but I would hope that after we go, there can be a discussion consensus that evolves in India and in Pakistan that the people of India and Pakistan are not safer by virtue of being engaged in a nuclear arms race.

Q Sandy, why isn't the President going to try to mediate the Kashmir dispute?

MR. BERGER: You can only mediate a dispute if both parties want to have that done. And the Indians have made very clear that that is not the way they prefer to see this issue dealt with. And we're certainly not going to interpose ourselves in a situation where one of the parties does not believe that's the right course of action.

What the President will do, I believe, is to, number one, urge each party to exercise restraint, urge that steps be taken, for example, in Pakistan, a number of steps that have happened since Lahore that have contributed to tension in Kargil and elsewhere that create a better environment and can then enable the dialogue between India and Pakistan to continue. Ultimately, that has to be the mechanism by which this issue is dealt with.

Q Is it fair to say that the most recent tensions that have gone on in Kashmir are the fault of the Pakistani side, given their invasion into the area that you're talking about last year?

MR. BERGER: I'm sorry, John, please repeat that.

Q Is it fair to say that the most recent -- I'm not talking about historic -- but the most recent tensions in Kashmir really can be laid on the side of the Pakistanis, because they were the ones to go into this disputed area last summer?

MR. BERGER: I think that it's always difficult to get back to first causes. But clearly, Kargil was something I think the Pakistanis bore responsibility for, and we were pleased when Prime Minister Sharif agreed to withdraw forces from that area. There is tension across the line of control on a repeated basis, and I think both sides need to exercise restraint and hopefully, the conditions can be created, ultimately, in which a dialogue can resume, as was started in Lahore.

Q Will the President try to help Sharif?

MR. BERGER: I'm sure the President will raise the case of Prime Minister -- former Prime Minister Sharif -- and will urge that, should he be convicted, that he not be executed. There are other cases that we want to raise with other instances -- we want to raise with Musharraf. There's a case, for example, involving an American, Donald Hutchins, that we've been very active in over the last five years. You may have seen his wife, Jane Shelley, has been quite a strong activist to try to get information on what happened to her husband -- is he alive, and is there information that may bear on whether he's alive or where he is, and we will -- we've talked to the Pakistanis on many occasions about this, and I believe this will come up while we're there.

Q In calling for nuclear restraint and dialogue, how will the administration address the very real security concerns that those countries have?

MR. BERGER: I think both countries have to ultimately determine what is in their security interest. I would argue that an escalating nuclear arms race diverts resources badly needed in both countries, causes the danger of conflict, and is a drag on their recognition, fully, realizing their full potential in the international community. So for all three reasons, I think that this is not a path that holds out the promise of more security; I believe it is a path that holds out the promise of less security. That's a judgment they will have to come to, obviously, and we will make that argument to them as we have over the last two years.

Q Is there anything that the administration can or will hold out as an offer to encourage them to restrain?

MR. BERGER: Well, I think these are decisions that the two governments are going to make or the two peoples are going to make based upon their own perception of their own self-interest. I don't think there's a carrot here that you can talk about. There are sanctions, obviously, that remain in effect under the Glenn Act, in the case of India; and with Pakistan, there's a cluster of legislation -- Symington and other legislation -- relating to things that we cannot do with India and Pakistan, particularly in the military sphere, some in the international financial institutions.

We've waived some sanctions over the last year where we have believed there has been some progress, as I've talked about, in the nuclear dialogue, or where we believe that projects or areas are in our mutual interest. And I expect there will be some additional areas on the trip -- for example, in the environmental area or the energy area -- where cooperation is inhibited. But as long as they have not met these steps that we've outlined, we can't realize the full potential of our relationship.

Q Sandy, in the past you've tried to get both sides, the Indians and the Pakistanis, not to proceed toward weaponization. Have you had any success in that? Stated the other way, how hair-trigger are both sides?

MR. BERGER: Well, neither side has deployed nuclear weapons, and I think that's an important step not taken. There are obviously further steps that could be taken that would de-escalate the level of tension and put these weapons farther out of reach, so to speak, which we would like to see.

Q Sandy, as the administration prepares to make a gesture toward Iran tomorrow, can you give us a little background on why this is a good time to be doing that, and what you think the circumstances -- what makes it important?

MR. BERGER: Well, I think Secretary Albright will have more to say about this tomorrow. Let me simply say that the recent election, once again, reflects a strong desire of most of the Iranian people for -- a strong commitment to democracy and a strong desire for a greater degree of freedom, certainly, over their lives. We think this is a positive development.

Now, there continues still to be serious problems that we have with Iran's activities, and particularly support of terrorism and its obstructionism in the Middle East peace process, for example. But I think it's appropriate for us to try to encourage the process of reform. And I'll leave the rest to Secretary --

Q By making a gesture?

MR. BERGER: Well, by whatever Secretary Albright --

Q Is the President going to see Assad in Geneva?

MR. BERGER: We've been working very hard, as you know, Helen, to get both the Palestinian track and the Syrian track of Middle East negotiations back on track -- very strange metaphor, if you think about it. And we were very pleased last week that as a result of several meetings between Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat, with some help from the President and Dennis Ross, Secretary Albright, the Palestinians and the Israelis agreed to resume final status negotiations. And their teams will be in the United States next week.

The next challenge is get the Syrian track moving again. The President has been working on that very, very hard. He's spoken to President Assad; he's spoken to Prime Minister Barak. Secretary Albright has spoken to her colleagues. And that's our hope. I'm not going to predict exactly how at this point that may unfold and where that path may take, but our strong determination is to get those negotiations resumed.

Q One of the -- earlier this week said that one of the reasons the U.S. has difficulty convincing the Indians to follow our advice on nuclear policy is that we really don't have very many ties with India. He pointed out two-way trade is only about $12 billion a year. He said one good step, first step, would be to get a free trade agreement between the two countries. Obviously, that's fairly ambitious when we currently have economic sanctions, but where do you see the economic relationship going, say, in five years or 10 years as a result of this trip?

MR. BERGER: Let me ask Lael to answer that.

MS. BRAINARD: As I was suggesting earlier, there is tremendous potential both for India to take its economic future in a direction of greater openness, greater market forces, liberalization and greater growth. They are moving into the high-tech sector at a pace that is really unequaled in any other developing country. And we have the potential to engage with them in a way that will be beneficial to them as well as to us.

It's worth noting that foreign direct investment in India is many times lower than that in China. Their export growth is much lower than that of China. They have a long way to go in terms of reaping the full benefits of economic integration with the rest of the world. And we, obviously, could play an important part of that through the kinds of economic dialogues that we are discussing with them right now.

We have common interests in the trading system. We have common interests in areas such as services trade, high-technology trade, and even some areas of agricultural trade. And so we do want to deepen discussion with them, deepen engagement with them, to move forward on areas that are win-win.

Q Sandy, could you and Rick address the problem of, or the question of why relations, either one of you, have been poor even with the fall of the Berlin Wall? I mean, we had the tilt to Pakistan, that was almost 30 years ago, Nixon's tilt. Communism is dead in most of the world. Yes, recently we've had the nuclear tensions and sanctions because of that. But still, in the '90s there was not an improvement, and why is that? Is it just the activity on the left is there, and they'll always hate an allegedly imperialist United States? What's been the problem?

MR. INDERFURTH: Well, I think the Cold War is the defining moment in terms of being able to get our relationship on track. We had differences them that were clear. Also on the economic side, it wasn't until the early 1990s that India started to reform its economy and moving it toward a more free-market structure than it had in the past. So these two very large impediments were removed, and I think that during this term, the President made a decision very early on that he wanted to pursue a policy of greater engagement.

This trip should have taken place two years ago, almost three years ago, in 1997. But India is now in a period of coalition government. At the time of the 50th anniversary, when the President was going to go, the government fell. Shortly after that there were nuclear tests. Then we started thinking again about going, the government fell. So it has been a combination of domestic politics and world events that has delayed this. It's long overdue, and I think that the Indians are very appreciative of the fact that we're coming, and that we're coming in a serious fashion, as evidenced by the kind of dialogue that we've had between Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh.

MR. BERGER: First of all, there's no causal relationship between the President planning to go to India and what has happened to the Indian government. I just wanted to add one thing to Rick's very good answer, and that is, the President has been talking about and focusing on South Asia in his first days here, and I think wanted to go there even in the first term. And as Rick has pointed out, a kind of a convergence of a few instances in which the government fell, we couldn't go, the tests, have deferred that.

So in many ways, I think the question is absolutely to the heart of it -- at the end of the Cold War, there was a great new opportunity. We have, I think, built on it somewhat during this period through the efforts of Rick and others. Secretary Summers was there recently; Secretary Daley's been there, and others. But I think that what this trip is fundamentally about, I think, in the most important dimension, is to try to establish a new partnership with India; that to not see India as a function of China or a function of the Soviet Union, but to see India as the world's largest, perhaps most vibrant, certainly most promising -- one of the most promising democracies. We are natural allies, Prime Minister Vajpayee said, not too long ago. And I think that's a view we share, and have a tremendous opportunity to reshape, I think, over time the nature of our relationship to reflect their importance.

Q What does India need to do to have the sanctions lifted, Sandy?

MR. BERGER: Well, I pointed out the four areas. Some of the sanctions have been lifted, as they've made some progress. Some of the sanctions have been lifted as we've identified areas where we have a mutual interest in, for example, environmental cooperation, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep sanctions in that area.

But to get at the heart of the sanctions or the sanctions that relate to anything that has any military application. The sanctions that relate to some other areas. We would like to see progress in the four areas I've talked about -- adherence to CTBT, strong export controls, agreement to negotiate with others, a fissile material cutoff, and restraint in its nuclear program.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 4:13 P.M. EST


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