Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, on the eve of President Clinton's visit to South Asia, yesterday warned Pakistan to "respect" the cease-fire line in Kashmir and halt terrorism against India.
"Nations must not attempt to change borders or zones of occupation through armed force . . . now that they have exploded nuclear devices," Mrs. Albright said in a luncheon address to the Asia Society.
"Tangible steps must be taken to respect the Line of Control," she added, referring to the unofficial border dividing Kashmir into Indian- and Pakistani-held sectors.
Mrs. Albright's statements yesterday marked a shift toward India and away from decades of U.S. neutrality in the conflict, which sparked two India-Pakistan wars and erupted into an active insurgency about 10 years ago.
A senior U.S. official said the remarks were aimed at Pakistan, which Mr. Clinton will visit briefly during his trip Monday through March 25.
"Pakistan wants to change the border - not India," said the senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"There have been indications of increased Indian activity along the Line of Control, so this is a warning for both sides," said the official. "But it is Pakistan rather than India that is seeking adjustments."
Another senior administration official, however, said that "this is not a tilt towards Pakistan."
"This is a recognition that we have many more opportunities with India and many more concerns with Pakistan. This is not a tilt," the second official said.
The White House yesterday rejected implications raised by a New York Times report that Mr. Clinton decided to visit Pakistan in part because first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton received $50,000 for her New York Senate race from a Pakistani-American political group at a Feb. 22 fund-raiser.
"The decision was made by the president in consultation with his foreign policy team based on our interest in the subcontinent, our interest in that part of the world, without regard to anyone's politics, including the first lady's," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said yesterday.
India has perhaps 500,000 troops in its portion of Kashmir. They are pinned down fighting an insurgency by militants - many trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan - who cross the Line of Control with Pakistani permission and encouragement.
Pakistan's chief executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power last October, has called publicly for continuing the armed struggle to oust India from Kashmir.
"This is a recognition that things have reached the stage where if the two sides are to move away from a confrontation, there have to be tangible steps," said the senior U. …