Saturday, March 12, 2005

Secretary Rice's "Indian Sphere" Agenda

The Heritage Foundation has prepared a good summary of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's agenda for her up-coming Asian tour. This blog had previously welcomed her appointment as Secretary. Now, India will have the opportunity to welcome her in person.

Heritage's perspectives on her visit agenda for the Indian Sphere (our replacement for the discredited expression "South Asia") are excerpted below -- key sentences have been bolded for reader convenience.

India: The economic, political, and security ties between the United States and India have advanced by leaps and bounds over the last decade, but President Bush has not yet visited the world’s largest democracy. A presidential visit to India would bind the budding friendship, demonstrate the President’s sincerity in supporting democracy in a region plagued by repressive governments and provide political capital to Indian politicians that want greater U.S.-India ties. Secretary Rice should lay the groundwork for a presidential visit later this year.

Rice’s trip to India also presents an opportunity to make a joint U.S.-India statement on Nepal. Since King Gyanendra abolished the government and established his monarchy as absolute, the human rights situation in the country has substantially dropped from its already low levels. Capitalizing on Nepal’s sudden political isolation, China is supporting the king’s dictatorial impulses and appears to be constructing another outpost of tyranny on its frontier, similar to Beijing’s behavior with North Korea and Burma. A strong statement by India and the United States should warn the Chinese about interfering with Nepal’s independence and encourage King Gyanendra to restore democracy this year.

Pakistan: President Pervez Musharraf is a tested ally in the war on terrorism, but he is also a military dictator and many intelligence analysts still believe Osama bin Laden is hiding out somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Rice must continue to press for democracy and for the suppression of terrorism in Pakistan while recognizing Islamabad’s contributions to the war on terrorism.

The India-Pakistan ceasefire over Kashmir has now held for more than a year, but the talks to move from a ceasefire to a peace agreement seem little closer to resolution than when they began. The obstacle is that neither side has the political will to compromise on Kashmir. Pakistan will not permit the resolution of non–Kashmir-related disputes, such as cross-border trade and communications, until the Kashmir issue is resolved. India refuses to permit outside or third-party negotiators to help the two countries find common ground. Nevertheless, life along the line of control that divides the two countries seems to be improving. Cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan into India have been reduced significantly from pre-ceasefire levels, there have been fewer cross-border artillery duels, and perhaps soon there will be a return of cross-border bus service. Although resolution seems disappointingly distant, Rice must resist the temptation to meddle. To establish useful American intervention both India and Pakistan must want American involvement and that is not the case now. Unwelcome stirring of the pot, while the peace is holding, may upset the positive gains made by the current negotiation process.

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