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The President's Trip to South Asia
U.S. RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN
The U.S. and Pakistan have had a history of close cooperation since Pakistan's independence in August 1947.
During the Cold War, Pakistan and the U.S. were close allies.
President Clinton's visit is the first post-Cold War visit to Pakistan by an American president. Three other American presidents have visited Pakistan: Dwight Eisenhower in December 1959, Lyndon Johnson in December 1967, and Richard Nixon in August 1969.
Pakistan and the U.S. have worked together for many years. Pakistan played a significant role helping the U.S. establish relations with China. In the 1980s, Pakistan cooperated closely with the U.S. to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistani troops regularly serve as UN peacekeepers and worked beside U.S. forces in Somalia. Pakistan and the U.S. have collaborated successfully to eliminate poppy production and to target narcotics trafficking in Pakistan.
The U.S. has long opposed Pakistan's nuclear weapon and missile programs. Pakistan's pursuit of such capabilities triggered U.S. sanctions in 1979 with the Symington Amendment, in 1990 with The Pressler Amendment, and in 1998 with the Glenn Amendment. The relationship has been further complicated over the years by Pakistan's support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, human rights issues, and the recent military coup.
General Musharraf has stated that he will tackle Pakistan's endemic economic and political problems, including corruption and poor governance, economic malaise, a lack of fair and equitable taxation, and lack of a safety net for the poorest Pakistanis.
The U.S. wants to see a stable, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan, at peace with its neighbors. This goal would serve the interests of the Pakistanis and of the more than one billion people in South Asia.
GOALS FOR THE VISIT
President Clinton is going to Pakistan to address issues that will advance our common interests. These include:
A return to civilian, democratic rule;
Cooperation in the fight against terrorism;
Measures to avoid a nuclear and missile arms race; and
Measures to lessen conflict in the region.
DEMOCRACY The military coup of October 12, 1999, interrupted a decade of elected civilian parliamentary government in Pakistan. The Pakistan constitution, as well as the national and provincial assemblies, have been suspended. An unknown number of politicians remain under detention without charge. Judges have been required to sign loyalty oaths, and actions by the military are not subject to judicial review. To date, General Musharraf has not provided a comprehensive time frame for a return to civilian democratic rule, except to indicate an intention to start with local level elections.
At the same time, the press and non-governmental organizations generally operate freely. Musharraf has made a commitment to hold local elections later this year. He has launched an accountability campaign to prosecute corruption and arrest tax evaders. The trial of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif needs to proceed properly and with due process.
The regime's private assurances for strengthening democratic institutions and civil society has not been matched with concrete steps on electoral, constitutional, judicial, and political reforms.
President Clinton will engage the Pakistani leadership to encourage them to implement quickly those reforms necessary to return a sustainable democracy to Pakistan, capable of rejecting those militant and anti-democratic elements in their society which threaten their future. He will also demonstrate American support for those in Pakistan who for 50 years have stood for non-sectarian, democratic governance.
TERRORISM A vital American interest in Pakistan, and next door in Afghanistan, is countering the threat of terrorism. The terrorists in their camps in Afghanistan, especially Usama bin Laden and his lieutenants, all too clearly threaten the U.S. and American lives. But they also threaten Pakistan and its neighbors.
The government of Pakistan has announced some steps to address this issue. It has begun the first phase of a program to reduce the prevalence of weapons and to ban the display of guns in public. General Musharraf has announced that he will go to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to meet with the Taliban leader Mullah Omar on issues of concern to the U.S. and Pakistan. More needs to be done.
REGIONAL STABILITY The U.S. government cannot predict when the next flare-up might occur in the region, but tensions are higher now than they have been since the last Indo-Pakistani war in 1971. We are concerned that, through misunderstanding or through gradual escalation, Pakistan and India could once again find themselves in conflict. The President seeks to help both sides avoid such a conflict.
President Clinton believes it is crucial that he carry a message of restraint and dialogue to both capitals on this trip. However, he does not intend to mediate, unless both parties request this assistance. He also wants to ensure that we maintain our lines of communication with both governments and peoples.
The President will also discuss nuclear nonproliferation with the Pakistanis, as he will with the Indians.
Over the past two years, the U.S. has had an intensive, senior-level dialogue with Pakistan on nonproliferation and security issues. We had made some progress toward greater understanding and cooperation on these issues, before the coup interrupted this dialogue. But much work remains to be done toward meeting global nonproliferation norms. Promoting further progress on nonproliferation will be one of the key issues on the President's agenda in Pakistan.