USIS Washington 

26 January 1999


(Meetings can help the normalization process, asst. secstate says)
By William B. Reinckens
USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Karl F. Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for
South Asian Affairs, said that progress is being made in the
India-Pakistan dialogue.

"These are not make-or-break sessions," Inderfurth said January 26 at
a Washington briefing on the eve of his departure to India and
Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Inderfurth, along with
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and General Joe Ralston, Vice
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit India and Pakistan
to examine ways to deal with nuclear proliferation and missile
technology issues as well as regional stability concerns.

"The Indian and Pakistani governments are approaching these important
issues seriously and deliberately," said Inderfurth. However, he noted
that U.S. relations with the two nations were "disappointing" last
year because of the underground nuclear tests each carried out last

This visit is the eighth round of talks between senior American,
Pakistani, and Indian officials since the tests.

"Our agenda is larger than non-proliferation," he said, stressing that
the United States wants to return to a more normal relationship with
the two countries. However, Inderfurth stated that "the greatest
degree of restraint is urged" on both countries to refrain from
testing missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He also noted
that the United States likes Indian Minister of External Affairs
Jaswant Singh's statement about wanting to "harmonize" security
concerns for the region.

Inderfurth rejected the idea that the United States rewarded Pakistan
by partially lifting economic sanctions this fall. He said that the
U.S. supports the International Monetary Fund's approved economic plan
for Pakistan because it would assist Pakistan to "get through this
rough economic time."

"We did not want to see economic collapse in Pakistan," he said.

"Our real objective is to remove all sanctions," against both
countries. How fast that happens depends on the progress that can be
demonstrated by all sides, he said.

Inderfurth characterized the recent visit to Washington by Pakistani
Prime Minister Sharif as statecraft which has created a "positive
momentum" toward regional security and non-proliferation.

"In both New Delhi and Islamabad, we will encourage the parties to
move forward and make real progress," he said.

He noted that the India-Pakistan senior level talks are scheduled
shortly after the U.S. delegation's visit. It is expected that both
countries will discuss peace and security, Kashmir, trade and

Inderfurth praised the Government of India for the strong statements
it has made condemning recent attacks on Christians in India. "Their
condemnations are what we expected," he said. He also sees progress in
the Indian-Pakistani dialogue with the arrival of the Pakistani
cricket team in India and the opening of the Grand Trunk road between
Lahore and New Delhi.

The political situation in Afghanistan will also be discussed during
the U.S. delegation's visit. "Pakistan can have a very important role
to play in moving Afghanistan toward peace," Inderfurth said. He noted
that Afghanistan's harboring of Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist
organization is a stumbling block to normalizing relations and called
for Afghanistan to expel Bin Laden so that he might be prosecuted for
the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa last year. He also noted
that the United States supports the work of the United Nations "Six
Plus Two" process. "It is clear that peace and stability cannot be
restored militarily," Inderfurth said.

After talks in India and Pakistan, Inderfurth will visit Sri Lanka.
Asked during the briefing about the role of U.S. Special Forces in
training Sri Lankan troops, he replied: "This program is transparent
and not part of the conflict. Our position is that the conflict should
be resolved quickly through a political process."

Inderfurth also mentioned that President Clinton might visit the
subcontinent at some point this year and noted that such a trip would
include a stop in Bangladesh.