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Press Briefing by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

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Trip to South Asia


Office of the Press Secretary
(New Delhi, India)

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 21, 2000


Maurya Sheraton
New Delhi, India

5:45 P.M. (L)

MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this afternoon's briefing.Joining us this afternoon is the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright,who will give you a sense of the day and then take your questions.

Okay, obviously I have to stand up here and talk for a few minutes, so-- a funny thing happened on the way to the Sheraton --

Q How's the food, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: It's fabulous. How have you found the accommodations,Bob? (Laughter.) Anybody else want to --

Q How's the President's mood?


Q And now --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon everybody. As the President saidthis morning, this day is long overdue. After more than 50 years of missedopportunities, we are taking steps necessary to elevate, improve andregularize the relationship between the world's two largest democracies.India and the United States have always had a host of common interests andshared values, but now we're talking about how we can work together withmutual respect to further them.

The vision statement that President Clinton and Prime MinisterVajpayee signed this afternoon reflects that. It highlights our newinitiatives to promote democracy around the world; to expand trade andinvestment, especially in technology areas; and to cooperate on globalissues such as climate change and fighting infectious diseases, includingtuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Of course, security and peace issues are essential, and instabilityand conflict in South Asia and the spread of weapons of mass destructionare increasingly causes of global concern. The President has not beenasked to mediate the dispute between India and Pakistan. He didn't comehere to do that. But he is urging both sides to exercise restraint, andcalling for the renewal of a dialogue.

We've all heard the awful news this morning from Kashmir. There is noexplanation or motive in history, law, religion or policy that can offerthe slightest justification for this kind of brutality. Our thoughts andprayers are with the survivors and families of the victims.

This latest tragedy in Kashmir underscores the urgency of finding apeaceful solution to the conflict. There can be no military solution. Italso underscores the importance of restoring respect for the line ofcontrol. For so long as this simple principle is violated, there will beno real hope for peace.

Today President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee also discussed howIndia could pursue its security requirements without leading to a costlyand destablizing nuclear and missile arms race. As the President indicatedduring this afternoon's press conference, we will continue to work atnarrowing our differences with India on nonproliferation issues, includingtighter export controls and joining the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.Significant progress on this front will allow India and the United Statesto realize the full potential of our relationship.

Finally, President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee talked todayabout ways to institutionalize the relationship between our governments sothat our strengthened relations continue to grow even stronger in the yearsahead. They agreed that the United States and India should hold regularbilateral summits, and the Prime Minister accepted the President'sinvitation to Washington. And we look forward to that visit.

Tomorrow morning the President will address the members of the twoHouses of India's Parliament. As he did today with the Prime Minister, thePresident will make the case for building a dynamic and lasting partnershipbetween the United States and India. He'll talk about our profound respectfor India's achievements over the years in building democracy, in managingan extraordinarily diverse society and embracing economic openness.

He'll call for greater trade and investment between our two countries,and he'll make the case for labor rights and the environment withoutfavoring developed nations over developing countries in trade matters.He'll argue that greater cooperation between us is necessary to addressglobal challenges. And as he did today, I expect he will ask for India'sleadership in moving the world away from nuclear weapons proliferation.

And on the conflict between India and Pakistan, I expect he'll againstress that violence, like the brutal attack last night in Kashmir cannotresolve the conflict.

Now I'll be happy to take your questions.

Q Madam Secretary, did you hear anything new, or did the Presidenthear anything new today on the nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan,and whether India would do anything specifically to restrain its program?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that they had a good discussion andit was an important part of the discussion. I think they both understoodthat it was a tough issue, but that, in effect, a lot of the past patternsof behavior have been cleared away and that we still have a lot of work todo on the specifics, and that, in fact, we were going to proceed accordingto a work plan to get a lot of the -- to see what we could do to resolve alot of the issues.

But I believe it was a useful discussion because the two leaders havenot had it face to face, and it was important for them to do so. And whatI got out of it was that they understood that there was work to be done; wehad different views, but work to be done. But both of them I think alsofelt a dedication to moving the world in a peaceful direction. I foundthat the dialogue generally was about the necessity for creating greaterstability.

Q The President said in the news conference that there is no threatof war in Kashmir and that the dangers have been overstated by the UnitedStates. Is the President reassured that there is, in fact, no threat ofwar there and that it's not as dangerous as he thought?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that everyone is concerned aboutthe continued tension and the Prime Minister certainly does not deny that.Nobody in this region does. And I think that what was very important wasthe President making quite clear again about the need for the respect forthe line of control, for there to be renewed dialogue on it and that therereally could not be any solution to this in a military way, that there hadto be a political dialogue.

But my sense out of the discussion was that they both obviously agreethat it's a difficult and tense situation, and events such as the oneduring the night, which we have all condemned, are very troubling.

But the President urged restraint, respect for the line of control,dialogue -- renewed dialogue and the need to solve the issuediplomatically, and not militarily.

Q Madam Secretary, India's leaders are saying that what thePresident said today on Kashmir represents a significant shift in U.S.policy and an endorsement of India's policy on Kashmir, and away fromPakistan. How true is that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would not interpret it that way. I think ourpolicy is what it was when we came here and what the President has saidmany times and things that I have said in my speeches, and that what theproblem here is, is that the story of Kashmir is a long and sad one, andthat it is a conflict that has been -- and I'll just say what I said in myspeech -- that has been fundamentally transformed, because nations cannot,must not attempt to change borders or zones of occupation through armedforce. And now that they have exploded nuclear devices, India and Pakistanhave all the more reason to avoid armed conflict and to restartdiscussions.

So I think that our position is the same. The President has madequite clear, and I'll say it again, that it's very important to respect theline of control, show restraint, renew the dialogue, and not try to solvethis militarily.

Q Back to the nonproliferation question. Before you leftWashington and before the President left Washington, you both said that youwill sort of press India on the nonproliferation issue and, even thoughit's not going to be held hostage, that some sort of resolution of thisissue is essential for improved relations. The Indians are sort ofspinning that there has been a come-down in the U.S. position with regardto nonproliferation. Has there been a come-down, or are the benchmarksstill sort of mandatory, and the criteria for the resolution, and some sortof modus vivendi between Washington and New Delhi?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me put it into context. Obviously, thenonproliferation issue is very important, and we have said that it'sdifficult for the relationship in the long run if we are not able toresolve it.

But what I believe that this visit of the President's has done is tomake clear the depth and breadth of our relationship with India. What hewanted to do by coming here almost a quarter of a century after the lastPresident had been here was to talk about the fact that there was a hugeand varied relationship that we can have with the world's largestdemocracy, and that we ought to be talking about issues that are beyond andaround the nonproliferation issue -- about science and technology.

I signed an agreement on that today. We're going to be having ascientific counselor at the Embassy again. We're talking aboutenvironmental issues. We're talking about HIV/AIDS. We're talking aboutthe huge business opportunities here in India -- the very large -- thehighly educated population of Indian Americans -- a whole host of otherissues.

So that I think that what this trip has done is not change in any waythe way we feel about the nonproliferation issue. And the President wasvery clear about our position on it and that work has to continue on it.But I think what we've seen here and I hope that the Indians have seen isthat our subjects of discussion are very large and very important, that wewant to have -- and I think the real world the President kept using overand over again is a respectful relationship with India; that we are twohuge democracies that need to respect each other, and because we do, beable to tackle the tough problems -- and nonproliferation is certainly oneof them.

Q The Prime Minister said today, he laid the blame for thesekillings squarely on Islamabad. One, does the United States blame Pakistanfor these killings? Does the United States hold Pakistan responsible forthose killings? And, two, the President said that he could not expect thedialogue to move forward unless there was an absence of violence. Doesthat not give the enemies of peace an effective veto over the peaceprocess?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it's very -- we don't knowwhere this happened and at this stage have no further information on it.And what the President has said is that the parties themselves have tobegin the dialogue. They are the ones that have to decide when -- he didnot come here in order to mediate it, but he did say that there had to be adialogue and a solution to this -- a renewal of dialogue and a solution tothis through diplomatic means. But the parties themselves are the onesthat have to make those decisions.

Q Madam Secretary, can you say that with the presidential visithere to India after 22 years, that a new chapter has been written inIndia-U.S. relations now? What can you -- how can you describe todayIndia-U.S. relations, and tomorrow after you leave from here forWashington?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I do hope that we can all saythat there was the beginning of a new chapter; that, by President Clintoncoming here and having the types of meetings that he's having and hisintensive, really intensive look at all of the aspects of India, or as manyas he can possibly fit in, show a whole new way, approach and, as I said, arespect for India's culture and history and India's democracy.

I hope that as we leave, that the message will be one that would showthat America sees huge opportunities for increasing our relationship anddialogue and, at the same time, that we do what we normally do, which isthat the United States is a country that tells it like it is -- when wehave problems with our friends, we let them know. And that is what thePresident did here. We are able to praise the good things and make a pointof saying that certain areas need improvement.

And I hope that the Indian people will see the President's trip as away of opening a relationship that has been long overdue, and that theoldest democracy and the largest democracy have a great deal in common.

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, we'll take one more here. George? George?We'll take one more.

Q Madam Secretary, following up on Susan's question to you, andTerry's to the President earlier, did you hear anything at all from thePrime Minister or other Indian officials that has you and the President nolonger feeling that this is one of the most dangerous regions in the world,and the possibility of war is a very real one?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we continue, obviously, to beconcerned about what is going on in the region. All one has to do is toread. However, I think that the President was encouraged by the fact thathe had a good discussion with the Prime Minister about various aspects ofthe problem, and that there were the possibilities of resolving it inpeaceful ways. After all, this was a Prime Minister who went to Lahore.

And I think that the President listened carefully. But again, he hasno illusions about the difficulties of the problem. The Kashmir problemhas gone on a long time, and the events overnight were very difficult, andclearly exacerbate the situation. And the nonproliferation problems arereal.

On the other hand, I think that the President felt that having thekind of discussion that he had with the Prime Minister and the otherdiscussions that he will have, at least make clear to all those that havelistened to him and all the things that he's heard, that he believes thatthere is a way to solve this through diplomacy and not through militarymeans.

MR. LOCKHART: Thank you. Thank you.


END 6:00 P.M. (L)  

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