INTRO: India's Prime Minister begins a much-
anticipated state visit to the United States today
(Thursday) with an address to a joint meeting of
Congress. He will also hold several days of talks with
senior U-S officials including President Clinton.
V-O-A's Jim Teeple reports from our New Delhi bureau
relations between the United States and India have
improved recently, but differences remain on several
critical issues.

Text: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's state
visit to Washington D-C is a mix of substance and
pomp. Mr. Vajpayee and senior officials in his
delegation are meeting with President Clinton as well
as with Congressional leaders who play an increasingly
important role in formulating U-S policy towards South

At a glittering state-dinner - the last scheduled
during the Clinton Presidency -- toasts will be raised
by both leaders in celebration of the increasingly
warm ties between the world's two largest democracies.

Behind the toasts however, are lingering tensions in
the U-S India relationship. Mr. Vajpayee travels to
Washington just months before the end of President
Clinton's term in office. The Indian leader's trip,
like that of President Clinton's to India earlier this
year, was delayed because of repercussions which
followed India's five nuclear tests, and subsequent
tests in 1998 by Pakistan.

Mr. Vajpayee is in the awkward position of being feted
by a government that continues to maintain sanctions
against India for those tests. During the talks Indian
officials are likely to press for a complete lifting
of those sanctions. U-S officials will once again ask
India to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty - the CTBT - which bans testing of nuclear

C. Raja Mohan, strategic affairs editor of the Hindu
newspaper says it is unlikely that there will be any
substantive progress on either issue.


I think it will be difficult for the two sides
to reconcile these differences now. In fact the
U-S was hoping that Mr. Vajpayee would have been
able to sign the CTBT before he came on this
visit - and India was hoping the U-S would have
been able to lift much of the sanctions imposed
after the nuclear tests. Since these two objectives
have been linked we have not been able to see
any progress - so I do not think that there is
any expectation something will happen during
this visit.

/// END ACT ///

// OPT // The two countries have held multiple rounds
of talks on the issue of nuclear proliferation since
1998. While neither has much to show for the talks,
experts like Uday Bhaskar, an active duty Indian Navy
Commodore, and the Deputy Director of the Institute
for Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, says
Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to Washington is a
sign that both countries have decided to put their
differences on nuclear issues aside - for the time
being -- and proceed with normal relations.


The United States has outlined its position
fairly clearly - as far as nuclear non-
proliferation is concerned. But I think there
is also a certain awareness within the United
States that India is a de-facto nuclear weapons
power, and that India will arrive at its own
decisions given the kind democratic pluralism
that animates the Indian experience. There is a
symbolism in Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to
Washington just now - because for the first time
the U-S is inviting an elected leader to speak
to its Congress even when there are sanctions in
place - so in that sense I would say there is a
certain nuanced kind of review going on - on
both sides.

/// END OPT ACT ///

// END OPT // Looming over the nuclear policy
discussions will be increasing tensions between India
and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan both claim the entire territory.
Two of the three wars Islamabad and New Delhi have
fought have been over Kashmir.

In days leading up to his Washington visit, Prime
Minister Vajpayee harshly criticized Pakistan -
accusing Islamabad of sponsoring terrorism and murder.
C. Raja Mohan of the Hindu Newspaper says the whole
issue of Kashmir and the related subject of relations
between India and Pakistan is likely to dominate the
discussions in Washington over the next few days.


The U-S would be to see India moving with
greater speed on dealing with the militants in
Kashmir and to address the Kashmir problem with
greater vigor, and also try and get a resumption
of talks between India and Pakistan. I think
that will be the top objective of the United
States. For India too, the important objective
will be to see how far the U-S is willing to go
to take decisive steps to persuade Pakistan to
end cross-border terrorism so that talks between
India and Pakistan could begin again. So you
come back to this issue of Indo-Pak relations
and the question of Kashmir and that I think
will be the main focus - and both sides will be
looking for some flexibility on other side.


In recent months India has been lobbying in Washington
to get Pakistan declared a "rogue state," for what
India says is Islamabad's sponsorship of terrorism in
Kashmir. For its part, Pakistan denies offering
militants in Kashmir anything more than diplomatic and
moral support.

U-S officials have so far resisted India's efforts to
declare Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism, but they have
stepped up criticism of Islamabad for not doing enough
to control the violent activities of groups operating
in Indian-administered Kashmir. U-S officials have
also urged direct discussions between India and
Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute - something
India says will not happen unless Pakistan stops what
it describes as "cross-border terrorism."

Just before his visit to South Asia last March,
President Clinton called Kashmir the most dangerous
place on earth. U-S officials say they remain
concerned that hostilities could break out at any time
between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and that there
are not enough safeguards in place to prevent
hostilities from escalating into a nuclear conflict.

For their part Indian officials have also expressed
concern that instability inside Pakistan could lead to
more conflict in the region. Over the next few days
in Washington, U-S and Indian officials are likely to
spend considerable time discussing how best to ease
tensions in a very dangerous part of the world.


14-Sep-2000 06:33 AM EDT (14-Sep-2000 1033 UTC)

Source: Voice of America