U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BUREAU OF SOUTH ASIAN AFFAIRS
TESTIMONY BY ROBIN RAPHEL ON SOUTH ASIA
FEBRUARY 9, 1995
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to testify on the Administration's policy towards South Asia. As Secretary Christopher said in his appearance before the full committee two weeks ago, it is the Administration's intention for the United States to maintain its leadership role, and to do so through our time tested bipartisan tradition. This is as true for South Asia as any other part of the world. Three of the areas of opportunity the Secretary outlined for 1995 have a direct relation to South Asia: sustaining the momentum toward more open global and regional trade; taking steps to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery; and combatting international crime and narcotics trafficking. I look forward to working with you and members of the committee to advance our interests in this increasingly important region.
South Asian countries, like those in other areas of the world, are in a period of complex interaction between unresolved historical tensions and the rapid transformation facing us all at the threshold of the 21st century.
On the one hand, the dramatic move towards market-based economies continues. In India, Prime Minister Rao, despite recent state electoral defeats, has reaffirmed to visitors and the media that economic reforms will continue. All major groups, including the opposition, now favor this fundamental shift in policy. In my own recent meeting with the Marxist chief minister of West Bengal, attracting foreign investment was the principal focus of our conversation.
In the face of continuing political crisis in Bangladesh, the government and the opposition tell foreign businessmen they favor foreign investment. During their visit last week to Washington, Sri Lanka's Foreign and Industries Ministers reaffirmed their new government's commitment to market- oriented economic policies and interest in foreign investment. Political turmoil and three changes of government in 1993 have not reversed the reform process in Pakistan.
We would not have imagined even five years ago that shared approaches to conflict resolution would have put South Asian and U.S. peacekeepers side-by-side in Cambodia, in Somalia, and in Haiti. Our combined efforts range in scale from a few dozen military observers aiding the conduct of elections to brigade-sized units in the most dangerous circumstances.
Yet longstanding disagreements and entrenched domestic political concerns sustain tensions between India and Pakistan, both of which are nuclear capable states. The ongoing internal conflict in Afghanistan demands our immediate attention. We know rising illicit narcotics production and consumption, continuing population growth, and increasing environmental degradation are longer-term threats not just to the region, but to the world. Human rights principles are all too often ignored throughout South Asia. And the democratic institutions that are so vital to ensure stability and accountability remain fragile and struggling in some regional nations, including Bangladesh and Pakistan.
UNITED STATES GOALS
Our top foreign policy goals in South Asia reflect the Administration's global priorities.
Avoiding war, reducing tensions and helping to resolve conflicts peacefully
No one takes lightly the dangers inherent in relations between India and Pakistan. They fought three wars between 1948 and 1972, and are still bitter rivals. Inflexible policies and attitudes on both sides aggravate serious tensions. These tensions are enhanced by the possession of a nuclear weapons capability by both countries.
The Kashmir dispute polarizes the relationship between the two nations. We are continuing efforts to persuade them to begin a serious effort to resolve this dispute. Such an effort must involve sustained, direct discussion between senior Indian and Pakistani officials. It requires the credible engagement of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the cessation of human rights abuses by security forces and militants. It also requires the end of outside assistance to the militancy against the Indian Government. The United States has offered to assist with this process, if India and Pakistan so request. Secretary Perry repeated this offer to both governments during his recent visit. We have no preferred outcome. But we simply recognize that a resolution is long overdue and essential for the long term stability of the region as a whole.
In Afghanistan, the United States actively supports the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan. The Chief of the UN Mission has conducted intensive and imaginative negotiations over the past months seeking to end the bloody conflict. Reluctance of factional leaders to relinquish their personal power for the overall good of Afghanistan remains the major obstacle.
Outside assistance to individual faction leaders has only strengthened their intransigence. We have worked hard with like-minded states to stop material support and funding for the belligerent factions, and to support the UN efforts to foster a return of peace and stability to Afghanistan. In the meantime, the U.S. has assisted refugees and those internally displaced due to the devastation of Kabul in 1994.
In Sri Lanka, we strongly support the ongoing peace talks between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The Sri Lankan government has shown courage and vision in its moves to reopen a dialogue with the LTTE in the North. Secretary Christopher met last week with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and underscored our support for his government's peace initiatives. Obtaining a lasting peace will be a long and arduous struggle. However, we are convinced that the Sri Lankan government is committed to this process and is acting in a spirit of openness and good faith. We urge the LTTE likewise to act in a manner that will further the prospects for a lasting and comprehensive peace, and to engage now on the substantive political agenda.
Preventing further development or deployment of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles
Both India and Pakistan could assemble a limited number of nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time. Both seek to acquire or develop ballistic missiles that are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. South Asia is the one area of the world where a regional conflict has the potential to escalate to a nuclear exchange, with devastating consequences in the region and beyond.
Our nonproliferation effort is multipronged. At the global level, we are working with both India and Pakistan at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to bring about global, nondiscriminatory and effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff and Comprehensive Test Ban treaties. These treaties will cap potential nuclear arms races everywhere, including in South Asia. We would like to see both countries undertake not to produce fissile material outside of international safeguards or to test a nuclear device in advance of final negotiation and ratification of the treaties. We also believe that regional approaches to nonproliferation can reinforce and advance global efforts. In this context, we continue to explore ideas on a regional format with both India and Pakistan as part of regular bilateral dialogues.
U.S. nonproliferation legislation has been invoked against both Pakistan and India. Assistance to Pakistan is broadly constrained under the Pressler Amendment. We have sanctioned entities in both Pakistan and India for violation of MTCR Category II standards. We and others remain seriously concerned about a potential ballistic missile race between India and Pakistan, and urge both countries to commit not to be the first to deploy such missiles.
As Secretary of Defense Perry noted during his recent visit to South Asia, we understand that both India and Pakistan need a capable defense. Secretary Perry's visit strengthened the framework for defense cooperation between the United States and each country, seeking in part to establish a transparency that would help them make realistic defense choices. The question is whether India and Pakistan can find reasonable solutions to their security requirements without nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, while moving in parallel to deal with their underlying differences.
This issue is further complicated by Indian concerns about China's impact on South Asian security. India and China have struck a modus vivendi along the stretch of disputed border where their troops face each other. But Indian strategic thinkers believe that the reality of Chinese missile capabilities and Beijing's nuclear weapons stockpile are of vital security concern to India. Indeed, one of Secretary Perry's points to audiences in the Subcontinent was that the goal of transparency also motivates U.S. defense relations with China so as to forestall misunderstandings and misperceptions of this threat.
We believe the further development or deployment of existing nuclear and missile capabilities in India and Pakistan would undermine both countries' security and limit their options in dealing with their political differences. Such escalation might also provoke negative reactions from countries outside the region. We will continue to work to convince them of this reality. The challenge for India and Pakistan and their friends in the international community is how to overcome these difficult issues.
Part of the answer may be provided by a larger global shift in perception about the meaning of national security. The collapse of the Soviet Union made it clearer to all of us that power, status and influence in the world have come to rest increasingly on an informed, active, and educated citizenry, economic strength, trade competitiveness and technological competence. Large standing armies, nuclear stockpiles and ballistic missiles are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee national security. To the degree the cost of such assets undermines a country's economic and technological strengths, they can even reduce security.
Encouraging free market economies and U.S. trade and investment with them
In the economic domain, South Asia is increasingly a region of intense growth and development. India's economic reform program has cleared the way for unprecedented trade and investment between our two countries -- a trend that has been reinforced by recent high-level visits on both sides. As you heard from my colleagues from the Commerce Department and the United States Trade Representative last week, India is one of the Commerce Department's top ten "big emerging markets," giving it a special priority in our trade promotion efforts. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown traveled with 26 CEOs to India January 14-19. They concluded commitments on projects worth $7 billion. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary led a delegation of businessmen to India last July that produced 11 private sector agreements in power and energy; she is going on a follow-up mission this month.
The structure of our growing economic ties with India now reflects their scope and scale. Secretary Brown established a U.S.-India Commercial Alliance to promote interaction between the private sectors of our two countries. The alliance is expected to complement the work of the sub cabinet level Indo-U.S. Economic/Commercial Subcommission, which the President agreed to revive during the visit of Prime Minister Rao to the United States last May. We plan a Subcommission meeting this Spring.
Pakistan also has a large and rapidly growing economy. Secretary O'Leary led a mission to Pakistan last September, which concluded 16 agreements worth nearly $4 billion. Her Deputy Secretary took a second group to Pakistan in December, which signed an additional 18 agreements valued at $2.5 billion.
Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh increasingly rely on market forces in their economic policies. Our embassies have actively developed trade promotion events. In Kathmandu, the Embassy sponsored the first-ever "USA Pavilion" at the Himalayan Expo '94 last May, and the success has encouraged plans to repeat it this year. In Colombo, the Embassy worked with the American Chamber of Commerce to mount an American Trade Fair last May 31 to June 2. More than 50 companies participated. In Bangladesh, the Embassy co- sponsored the fourth annual "U.S. Business in Bangladesh" trade show January 12-14, which attracted 42 exhibitors representing 120 U.S. firms. These events and initiatives serve to increase interest in U.S. products throughout the region. Promoting democracy and fostering protection of universally recognized human rights
Supporting and strengthening democracy remains a fundamental aim of the Clinton Administration in South Asia as around the world. With the exception of Afghanistan and Bhutan, parliamentary governments were in place throughout South Asia in 1994. Generally free and fair elections brought new governments to power in both Sri Lanka and Nepal. We note with concern that bitter political cleavages, such as in Bangladesh and Pakistan, retard the development of democratic institutions and weaken the ability of the political system to move ahead on needed economic and social reforms. The new Bangladeshi democratic institutions have ventured into uncharted waters with the late December mass resignation of the opposition from Parliament and the continued agitation for new elections.
The United States contributes both directly and indirectly to the process of strengthening democracy in the region. U.S. assistance still includes programs to build civil institutions, such as legislatures and judiciaries, but now emphasizes non-governmental sector activities. Exchange programs provide South Asians first-hand exposure to U.S. institutions. The State Department also has encouraged a number of major U.S. NGOs to carry out privately funded projects to enhance democratic structures.
Advancing universally-recognized human rights in South Asia is a key U.S. interest. America's commitment to social justice and respect for human rights will always be among our fundamental imperatives. We will continue to work both publicly and privately with foreign government leaders, non- governmental organizations, and private citizens to advance these goals. The just-issued annual State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices contains our detailed assessments of the human rights situation in South Asian countries.
In India, public awareness of human rights problems is growing. This issue is on the political agenda and the subject of frequent comment in a free press. The courts are now more active in human rights cases. Local human rights groups have continued their important efforts to catalogue and draw attention to human rights abuses throughout India. Growing public opposition targets the abuses of national security laws such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). 61,843 people who were detained under TADA from 1985 through May, 1994, but only 626 were convicted. Last July, the Supreme Court ordered the release of TADA detainees after 180 days if no charges are filed. This has resulted in a dramatic decline from approximately 13,000 TADA detainees to roughly 5,000 by the end of the year.
Government efforts to deal with human rights problems include creation of a National Human Rights Commission which, at the one year mark, has surprised the skeptics and begun to establish itself as an effective advocate for human rights. During its first year of operation, the NHRC heard about 3,000 complaints of human rights abuse and investigated cases in nearly every state in India.
More needs to be done. Security forces and militants continue abuses in Kashmir. In the Punjab, incidents of terrorist violence virtually ended more than a year ago; however, police often do not respect normal criminal procedures. Widespread abuse of public security laws such as the TADA, which was designed to help counter terrorism, especially in areas experiencing separatist uprisings, occur throughout the country -- including states like Gujarat, which has no insurgency. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Government of India.
In Sri Lanka, we have seen especially dramatic progress as the Government continued to take significant steps to protect human rights. Emergency regulations were allowed to lapse in all but war-affected areas, and remaining emergency regulations were modified in accordance with United Nations Human Rights Commission recommendations. Disappearances virtually ceased in government-controlled areas in 1994. The Government created three regional commissions to investigate disappearances. We have urged the Sri Lankan government to sustain, and to build upon, its commitment to human rights.
Pakistan, the death sentence of Gul Masih, the sole individual to be convicted under the blasphemy law, was overturned. However, Christians and Ahmadis continued to be charged with blasphemy, often on flimsy evidence. Treatment of prisoners and women remains a serious problem, although the government established several police stations staffed by women officers for women detainees and victims in an effort to end abuses. The government has also created a human rights unit to monitor abuses.
In Bangladesh, the Government allowed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which established special tribunals for a wide range of crimes, to lapse. However, the Government has not repealed the 1974 Special Powers Act, which continued to be used to detain political opponents and other citizens without formal charges.
In Nepal, the transition to a new government is helping to solidify democracy. The newly elected United Marxist- Leninist government has declared its continued support for democracy and human rights. Increasing respect for human rights remains a major priority in our relations with all of the countries in the region. Curbing narcotics production and flows
South Asia is a major producer of licit and illicit opium. It is increasingly important as a transit area for heroin and other illegal substances. Addict populations in regional states have grown swiftly, now totalling over three million. Half of these, all heroin addicts, are in Pakistan alone. One of our most important goals in the region has been to work with governments and NGOs to heighten awareness of the magnitude and social cost of this trafficking. In South Asia, as elsewhere, drug smuggling forms a major source of income for some criminal groups and also for some of those attempting to influence democratic political institutions through corruption and intimidation.
Pakistan began 1995 with potentially significant progress in eradication of poppy fields, seizure of drugs, and freezing of traffickers' assets. The Pakistani Government has also consolidated Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force under solid, military leadership. While much remains to be done, these steps represent a real basis for future progress.
India is the major supplier to the U.S. of legal opium for vital pharmaceuticals. We have been working intensively with Indian authorities to eliminate diversion of opium to the illicit market. Reforms have been implemented in the cultivation and processing system, but more needs to be done. Key questions remain unanswered on the magnitude of the diversion problem.
The Afghan civil war has allowed Pakistan-based heroin labs and narcotics traffickers to benefit from enormously increased poppy cultivation. The lack of a functioning government in Afghanistan has limited our ability to address the problem, although we are looking at efforts to assist responsible regional leaders.
We are working with Indian and Pakistani narcotics authorities to improve their cooperation in interdicting the narcotics trade across their borders. We have seen encouraging signs of progress in this area, including several rounds of Indo-Pakistani bilateral discussions. Significant progress on the overall situation will require far greater emphasis on enforcement and crop eradication and substitution throughout the region.
As we work to advance fundamental U.S. interests in South Asia, we want our engagement to reflect the totality of our interests. It must be broad and complete. One core interest cannot be pursued to the exclusion of the other key objectives. Some commentators have incorrectly argued that expanding U.S. economic objectives in South Asia should or will undercut our efforts to advance other key interests, such as nonproliferation or human rights. Others mistakenly believe our relationship with one country must come at the expense of another. The record I have described above amply demonstrates this is not the case.
Our bilateral relationships need to be based on a realistic assessment of each other's interests, recognizing that it is normal and healthy for sovereign states to differ in some areas while agreeing in others. Expanding mutual interests will give us the incentives to overcome differences and build on areas of convergence.
Expanding relationships and deeper engagement with the countries of South Asia are now a reality. The end of the Cold War and economic opportunity have raised the profile of relations with this important region. New structures to ensure closer engagement with the region are being put in place. For example, Secretary Perry recently signed an Agreed Minute outlining plans for Indo-U.S. security cooperation. Likewise, the U.S.-Pakistan Consultative Group on security issues was revitalized during Secretary Perry's trip. The revived Indo-U.S. Economic/Commercial Subcommission and a new private sector Indo-U.S. Commercial Alliance will contribute to better understanding of economic and commercial issues.
A reflection of this engagement is the wide range of senior visitors we've exchanged with South Asian states in the past year. Three cabinet secretaries visited the region. The new partnership launched by Prime Minister Rao and President Clinton just eight months ago is already paying major dividends for the United States and India. The Prime Minister of Pakistan will visit the United States in two months. Her meeting with the President will help reinvigorate our relationship.
Our hope and expectation is that the effort we put into closer relations will make the United States a more valuable and trusted interlocutor and improve our prospects for finding ways to ease deep seated tensions and resolve complex disputes that threaten our broader interests.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to discuss in brief the principal issues of concern to the United States in South Asia and our efforts to deal with them. I would be happy to take questions from you and members of the committee, to allow us to explore these and other issues at greater length.
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