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Albright Briefing at Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New Delhi, India)

For Immediate Release March 21, 2000

PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

Maurya Sheraton New Delhi, India March 21, 2000

MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this afternoon's briefing. Joining us this afternoon is the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who will give you a sense of the day and then take your questions.

Okay, obviously I have to stand up here and talk for a few minutes, so -- a funny thing happened on the way to the Sheraton --

QUESTION: How's the food, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: It's fabulous. How have you found the accommodations, Bob? (Laughter.) Anybody else want to --

QUESTION: How's the President's mood?

MR. LOCKHART: Upbeat.

QUESTION: And now --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon everybody. As the President said this morning, this day is long overdue. After more than 50 years of missed opportunities, we are taking steps necessary to elevate, improve and regularize the relationship between the world's two largest democracies. India and the United States have always had a host of common interests and shared values, but now we're talking about how we can work together with mutual respect to further them.

The vision statement that President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee signed this afternoon reflects that. It highlights our new initiatives to promote democracy around the world; to expand trade and investment, especially in technology areas; and to cooperate on global issues such as climate change and fighting infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Of course, security and peace issues are essential, and instability and conflict in South Asia and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are increasingly causes of global concern. The President has not been asked to mediate the dispute between India and Pakistan. He didn't come here to do that. But he is urging both sides to exercise restraint, and calling for the renewal of a dialogue.

We've all heard the awful news this morning from Kashmir. There is no explanation or motive in history, law, religion or policy that can offer the slightest justification for this kind of brutality. Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and families of the victims.

This latest tragedy in Kashmir underscores the urgency of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. There can be no military solution. It also underscores the importance of restoring respect for the line of control. For so long as this simple principle is violated, there will be no real hope for peace.

Today President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee also discussed how India could pursue its security requirements without leading to a costly and destabilizing nuclear and missile arms race. As the President indicated during this afternoon's press conference, we will continue to work at narrowing our differences with India on nonproliferation issues, including tighter export controls and joining the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Significant progress on this front will allow India and the United States to realize the full potential of our relationship.

Finally, President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee talked today about ways to institutionalize the relationship between our governments so that our strengthened relations continue to grow even stronger in the years ahead. They agreed that the United States and India should hold regular bilateral summits, and the Prime Minister accepted the President's invitation to Washington. And we look forward to that visit.

Tomorrow morning the President will address the members of the two Houses of India's Parliament. As he did today with the Prime Minister, the President will make the case for building a dynamic and lasting partnership between the United States and India. He'll talk about our profound respect for India's achievements over the years in building democracy, in managing an extraordinarily diverse society and embracing economic openness. He'll call for greater trade and investment between our two countries, and he'll make the case for labor rights and the environment without favoring developed nations over developing countries in trade matters. He'll argue that greater cooperation between us is necessary to address global challenges. And as he did today, I expect he will ask for India's leadership in moving the world away from nuclear weapons proliferation.

And on the conflict between India and Pakistan, I expect he'll again stress that violence, like the brutal attack last night in Kashmir cannot resolve the conflict.

Now I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, did you hear anything new, or did the President hear anything new today on the nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan, and whether India would do anything specifically to restrain its program?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that they had a good discussion and it was an important part of the discussion. I think they both understood that it was a tough issue, but that, in effect, a lot of the past patterns of behavior have been cleared away and that we still have a lot of work to do on the specifics, and that, in fact, we were going to proceed according to a work plan to get a lot of the -- to see what we could do to resolve a lot of the issues.

But I believe it was a useful discussion because the two leaders have not had it face to face, and it was important for them to do so. And what I got out of it was that they understood that there was work to be done; we had different views, but work to be done. But both of them I think also felt a dedication to moving the world in a peaceful direction. I found that the dialogue generally was about the necessity for creating greater stability.

QUESTION: The President said in the news conference that there is no threat of war in Kashmir and that the dangers have been overstated by the United States. Is the President reassured that there is, in fact, no threat of war there and that it's not as dangerous as he thought?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that everyone is concerned about the continued tension and the Prime Minister certainly does not deny that. Nobody in this region does. And I think that what was very important was the President making quite clear again about the need for the respect for the line of control, for there to be renewed dialogue on it and that there really could not be any solution to this in a military way, that there had to be a political dialogue.

But my sense out of the discussion was that they both obviously agree that it's a difficult and tense situation, and events such as the one during the night, which we have all condemned, are very troubling.

But the President urged restraint, respect for the line of control, dialogue -- renewed dialogue and the need to solve the issue diplomatically, and not militarily.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, India's leaders are saying that what the President said today on Kashmir represents a significant shift in U.S. policy and an endorsement of India's policy on Kashmir, and away from Pakistan. How true is that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would not interpret it that way. I think our policy is what it was when we came here and what the President has said many times and things that I have said in my speeches, and that what the problem here is, is that the story of Kashmir is a long and sad one, and that it is a conflict that has been -- and I'll just say what I said in my speech -- that has been fundamentally transformed, because nations cannot, must not attempt to change borders or zones of occupation through armed force. And now that they have exploded nuclear devices, India and Pakistan have all the more reason to avoid armed conflict and to restart discussions.

So I think that our position is the same. The President has made quite clear, and I'll say it again, that it's very important to respect the line of control, show restraint, renew the dialogue, and not try to solve this militarily.

QUESTION: Back to the nonproliferation question. Before you left Washington and before the President left Washington, you both said that you will sort of press India on the nonproliferation issue and, even though it's not going to be held hostage, that some sort of resolution of this issue is essential for improved relations. The Indians are sort of spinning that there has been a come-down in the U.S. position with regard to nonproliferation. Has there been a come-down, or are the benchmarks still sort of mandatory, and the criteria for the resolution, and some sort of modus vivendi between Washington and New Delhi?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me put it into context. Obviously, the nonproliferation issue is very important, and we have said that it's difficult for the relationship in the long run if we are not able to resolve it.

But what I believe that this visit of the President's has done is to make clear the depth and breadth of our relationship with India. What he wanted to do by coming here almost a quarter of a century after the last President had been here was to talk about the fact that there was a huge and varied relationship that we can have with the world's largest democracy, and that we ought to be talking about issues that are beyond and around the nonproliferation issue -- about science and technology.

I signed an agreement on that today. We're going to be having a scientific counselor at the Embassy again. We're talking about environmental issues. We're talking about HIV/AIDS. We're talking about the huge business opportunities here in India -- the very large - - the highly educated population of Indian Americans -- a whole host of other issues.

So that I think that what this trip has done is not change in any way the way we feel about the nonproliferation issue. And the President was very clear about our position on it and that work has to continue on it. But I think what we've seen here and I hope that the Indians have seen is that our subjects of discussion are very large and very important, that we want to have -- and I think the real world the President kept using over and over again is a respectful relationship with India; that we are two huge democracies that need to respect each other, and because we do, be able to tackle the tough problems -- and nonproliferation is certainly one of them.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister said today, he laid the blame for these killings squarely on Islamabad. One, does the United States blame Pakistan for these killings? Does the United States hold Pakistan responsible for those killings? And, two, the President said that he could not expect the dialogue to move forward unless there was an absence of violence. Does that not give the enemies of peace an effective veto over the peace process?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it's very -- we don't know where this happened and at this stage have no further information on it. And what the President has said is that the parties themselves have to begin the dialogue. They are the ones that have to decide when -- he did not come here in order to mediate it, but he did say that there had to be a dialogue and a solution to this -- a renewal of dialogue and a solution to this through diplomatic means. But the parties themselves are the ones that have to make those decisions.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can you say that with the presidential visit here to India after 22 years, that a new chapter has been written in India-U.S. relations now? What can you -- how can you describe today India-U.S. relations, and tomorrow after you leave from here for Washington?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I do hope that we can all say that there was the beginning of a new chapter; that, by President Clinton coming here and having the types of meetings that he's having and his intensive, really intensive look at all of the aspects of India, or as many as he can possibly fit in, show a whole new way, approach and, as I said, a respect for India's culture and history and India's democracy.

I hope that as we leave, that the message will be one that would show that America sees huge opportunities for increasing our relationship and dialogue and, at the same time, that we do what we normally do, which is that the United States is a country that tells it like it is - - when we have problems with our friends, we let them know. And that is what the President did here. We are able to praise the good things and make a point of saying that certain areas need improvement.

And I hope that the Indian people will see the President's trip as a way of opening a relationship that has been long overdue, and that the oldest democracy and the largest democracy have a great deal in common.

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, we'll take one more here. George? George? We'll take one more.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, following up on Susan's question to you, and Terry's to the President earlier, did you hear anything at all from the Prime Minister or other Indian officials that has you and the President no longer feeling that this is one of the most dangerous regions in the world, and the possibility of war is a very real one?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we continue, obviously, to be concerned about what is going on in the region. All one has to do is to read. However, I think that the President was encouraged by the fact that he had a good discussion with the Prime Minister about various aspects of the problem, and that there were the possibilities of resolving it in peaceful ways. After all, this was a Prime Minister who went to Lahore.

And I think that the President listened carefully. But again, he has no illusions about the difficulties of the problem. The Kashmir problem has gone on a long time, and the events overnight were very difficult, and clearly exacerbate the situation. And the nonproliferation problems are real.

On the other hand, I think that the President felt that having the kind of discussion that he had with the Prime Minister and the other discussions that he will have, at least make clear to all those that have listened to him and all the things that he's heard, that he believes that there is a way to solve this through diplomacy and not through military means.

MR. LOCKHART: Thank you. Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

(###)


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