Albright’s visit to Pakistan
The Nation
November 23, 1997
Had domestic situation been not so tense or had tension in the Gulf not risen so swiftly, this week’s visit to Pakistan by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would have received the due significance in press reporting and analysis as well as in public debates and discussions. Despite the fact that all this could not happen, Ms Albright said and did as she had planned: the agreements on investment, agricultural, population and environment cooperation were signed. And the importance that the United States attaches to Pakistan, as part of its ‘greater engagement’ policy towards South Asia, was stressed. The US Secretary of State spoke on Kashmir as well.

On Kashmir, Ms Albright said almost the same thing which other US dignitaries, including Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth, had said during their recent visits to Islamabad: that the United States supports dialogue on Kashmir between India and Pakistan, and that it will mediate on the issue unless both the parties are willing for it. The apparent difference in Ms Albright’s personal approach towards Kashmir is that she considers it a subject of special significance—a subject which, she admitted in her press conference in Islamabad, “she has grown up with.”

“My father has died, and I have grown old. We would like the Kashmir issue to be resolved early through dialogue between India and Pakistan,” she said at her joint press conference at the Foreign Office. Joseph Korbel, Madeleine’s father, was a member of the UN Commission for India and Pakistan. The conclusions he reached in his book, The Daughter in Kashmir, seek a solution of the problem that conforms to the will of the Kashmiri people, on the one hand, and the spirit of the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the UN Commission for India and Pakistan, on the other.

No matter how much personal interest the US secretary of State may maintain on an early settlement of the Kashmir issue, the US approach on Kashmir is crystal clear: Washington is not prepared to play any mediatory role on the matter unless India agrees for it, which it will never. In her press statement, Ms Albright also did not mention anything about Kashmir. She only talked about it while answering a couple of press queries. I sought her response to a US role on Kashmiri resolution; however, each time, after making a brief response, she diverted her answer to the issue of nuclear proliferation in South Asia. All this means that even though she personally appears to be interested in seeking an early resolution of the Kashmir dispute, Ms Albright will follow what the overall agenda of the Clinton administration on it would be.

On the issue of nuclear proliferation in South Asia, the Clinton administration seems to have adopted the policy of nuclear restraint abandoning its past approach of seeking a nuclear rollback in the region. This new US policy seems to be based on the recommendation of the report, A New US policy Towards India and Pakistan, prepared by an independent Task Force of the US Council on Foreign Relations and released in February last. According to the report, the United States should try to stabilize the nuclear relationship between India and Pakistan by, for instance, not letting the two countries to conduct nuclear explosions, deploy nuclear arms or transfer nuclear weapons technology and material to a third country. As the US Secretary of States also stated, preventing the transfer of Weapons of Mass Destruction from South Asia was a US policy goal.

There is clear-cut discrepancy in the US ‘greater engagement’ policy towards South Asia. Despite the fact that the key culprit both in the case of Kashmir and nuclear proliferation is India—and despite the fact that, unlike India, Pakistan has stood by the United States during much of the Cold War period (and even now to combat terrorism)— the Clinton administration has chosen India to be its strategic partner in the post-Cold War period. During his last month’s visit to New Delhi, Mr. Pickering laid down the basis of, what the Clinton administration calls, its strategic dialogue with India.

Now, during her visit to India, Ms Albright has further consolidated the foundation of this dialogue, which depicts nothing but a clear US tilt towards India. In other words, there is no truth in the American official statements about an even-handed US approach in its relations with India and Pakistan—statements which have been made quite frequently since former Defense Secretary William Perry’s February 1995 visit to the region.

India is a country which, against the will of the international community, has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It refuses to sign the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Nor has it concluded the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India continues to link the signing of all these treaties with a time-bound commitment by the nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear arms. Pakistan, on the other hand, links its nuclear stand only with India’s and has, over the years, offered various suggestions to solve the problem of nuclear proliferation in South Asia regionally as well as with the involvement of extra-regional great powers.

In this backdrop, the US policy of pursuing strategic dialogue with India looks quite ridiculous. For more than once during her press talk, Secretary of State Albright tried to give an impression as if the United States gave equal importance to India and Pakistan. She said the United States was pursuing an across-the-board relationship with the two countries. This is not true at all. Ever since Mr. Perry visited the region, the United States has offered much more to India than it has to Pakistan, which continues to be victimized by the Pressler amendment.

On the other hand, on the F-16s issue, Pakistan is being repeatedly disappointed. What Ms Albright said was noting new from the US side. She just said the Clinton administration was working hard to resolve the matter, something which every US dignitary visiting Pakistan recently stated. Even the agreements that she concluded with Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub are not that significant to be portrayed as signaling a new beginning in Pak-US relations. The permission to the US overseas Private Investment Corporation to operate in Pakistan is a good development, which has taken place after the passages of the Warmer-Harkin amendment. The rest of the agreements pertain to areas like environment, population and agricultural development, involving meager US funding.