Neighbors with Nukes: A Key Topic on Clinton's Upcoming Asia Trip: The Deep Bitterness between India and Pakistan-The Newest Nuclear Powers-Over Territory and Terrorism. Exclusive Interviews with the Leaders of Both Nations

By Weymouth, Lally | Newsweek, March 20, 2000 | Go to article overview

Neighbors with Nukes: A Key Topic on Clinton's Upcoming Asia Trip: The Deep Bitterness between India and Pakistan-The Newest Nuclear Powers-Over Territory and Terrorism. Exclusive Interviews with the Leaders of Both Nations


Weymouth, Lally, Newsweek


Late this week President Clinton sets off on a tour of south Asia. He will spend five days in India, the first president to visit that country in 22 years. On his way home, he will stop in Pakistan for a few hours. Indo-Pakistani tensions are running at an all-time high. The flash point is Kashmir, the disputed territory where the two nations last year fought a bitter war. Last week NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth interviewed India's prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Excerpts:

INDIA

WEYMOUTH: Will President Clinton's visit to India mark the beginning of a new chapter in the Indo-U.S. relationship?

VAJPAYEE: We hope that the president's visit will add a new page in Indo-U.S. relations. There have been a lot of doubts and tensions. They need to be set aside and replaced by mutual trust and understanding of each other's concerns.

You took a tremendous risk for peace when you traveled last year by bus to Lahore, Pakistan, to meet with then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Do you feel you were betrayed by Pakistan when it subsequently launched an attack on Indian Kashmir at Kargil? Is it possible to get talks restarted with Pakistan?

From the very beginning, India has been endeavoring to develop friendly relations. I went to Lahore with the hope that a new beginning would be made. We are neighbors, and we have to live together as friends or in an indifferent manner. My visit once again convinced me that the people of both countries, India and Pakistan, want to live in peace. Then came the Kargil. It was a rude shock to me. Now a proper climate has to be created for resuming talks. So long as cross-border terrorism is there and the hostile propaganda against India continues, no useful purpose will be served by having talks.

People say that Pakistani strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf was the architect of the May 1999 attack on Kargil. Is it possible to work with him?

Politicians should really forget the past if a new beginning could be made for the future. But I don't see any sign of a new beginning.

I heard that Musharraf has been sending messages through various people that he would like to have talks at some level with India.

Messages are not necessary. What is necessary is action...

Do you mean no more terrorism?

No more terrorism and a commitment that all problems, including Kashmir, will be solved by peaceful means.

Are you worried about the threat of a nuclear war over Kashmir?

No. There is no possibility. I completely rule out a nuclear war.

There are daily artillery clashes in Kashmir, and tensions are high between the two countries. Are you concerned, and is there a role for the United States to play?

There is no role for any third party, however well intentioned. We would like to solve the problems bilaterally.

Do you have a vision for a settlement for Kashmir?

Unless it is recognized that Jammu and Kashmir [Indian-occupied Kashmir] is an integral part of India, there cannot be an enduring solution.

You say that there is hard evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane. What is it?

Some Pakistani officials posted in Katmandu [Nepal] were directly involved with the hijackers. The hijackers themselves had connections with Pakistan and its intelligence agencies.

Were you disappointed by the U.S. reaction to the October military coup in Pakistan? Should the United States have been more forceful in denouncing it?

Yes, that is what we had expected. The United States has condoned the military coup.

In December 1998 you said at the United Nations that India would sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty a year later. Will India sign CTBT in the near future?

The matter is under discussion. We are evolving a consensus. We are a democracy, and on such important international issues we proceed on the basis of a consensus. …

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Neighbors with Nukes: A Key Topic on Clinton's Upcoming Asia Trip: The Deep Bitterness between India and Pakistan-The Newest Nuclear Powers-Over Territory and Terrorism. Exclusive Interviews with the Leaders of Both Nations
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