Little Progress Seen on Big Issues During Clinton's Asia Tour

July 7, 2008 - 8:07 PM

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - President Clinton's five-day tour of South Asia achieved little progress on major issues, but nonetheless played a significant role in improving America-India relations, analysts said Sunday.

"He came, he saw, and he went away," one said in summary, noting scant progress in the issues of nuclear nonproliferation, the Kashmir territorial dispute, and the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

"There has been no change in U.S. policy towards Kashmir as has been interpreted by Indian foreign ministry officials," Chintamani Mahapatra of the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University told CNSNews.com.

Analysts agreed that the American leader's trip to the region managed to "break the ice" in strained U.S.-Indian relations and also kept the lines of communication open between Washington and Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

Foreign policy analyst Brahma Chellaney added that Clinton was "the first U.S. president to openly speak about Pakistan's role in supporting terrorism - both in Kashmir and elsewhere, like the [1993] attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

"But India should not get carried away. It is basically a reflection of U.S. concerns that Pakistan is both a problem in terms of regional security and international security."

Former foreign secretary and political analyst J.N. Dixit said Clinton had "fulfilled India's expectations," but he warned New Delhi against raising its hopes too high about changes in neighboring rival Pakistan.

"Let's see what the general does. Will Musharraf heed Clinton's advice? That remains to be seen."

Jasjit Singh, director of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses said: "It is for the first time in 50 years that both the U.S. and India held serious discussions with each other while regarding the other side as neutral - neither an enemy nor an ally.

"The Cold War hangover has ended. It is the start of a very substantive change in the attitude of the U.S. leadership and the media."

Clinton ended his regional tour with a brief stopover in Islamabad Saturday. He welcomed Musharraf's announcement earlier of a gradual process to return Pakistan to democratic rule, beginning with local elections at year's end, but said "the return of civilian democratic rule requires a complete plan, a real road map."

Musharraf said he did not seek legitimacy for his rule nor require it from anybody except the people of Pakistan.

On the nuclear issue, neither Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee nor Musharraf took up Clinton's urging to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In India, he raised the subject during an address to lawmakers. In response, Vajpayee said: "I have explained to President Clinton the reasons which compel us to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent.

"I have reiterated a firm commitment not to conduct further nuclear explosive tests, not to engage in a nuclear arms race and not to be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country."

Clinton tried again, in Islamabad. "One way to strengthen your security would be to join the CTBT," said Clinton during a televised address to the people of Pakistan. "The whole world will rally around you if you do."

Pakistan maintains it will only sign the CTBT after India does. The two countries became declared nuclear power in May 1998.

During his visit, Clinton also stressed the need for a dialogue and an easing of tensions in disputed Kashmir. He urged Islamabad to refrain from violating the de facto border dividing the region, the Line of Control.

"No matter how great the grievance it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the Line of Control," he said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Raminder Singh Jassal said India welcomed Clinton's "call to the people of Pakistan to look to the future and not remain mired in the quarrels of the past.

"He has kept his faith with us," said Jassal, noting that Clinton had made the "blunt admonition that you cannot redraw borders in blood."

Clinton's one-day visit to Bangladesh, at the start of his South Asian tour, had its share of controversy.

The president's decision to skip a visit to the war memorial in Dhaka for "security reasons" was taken by Bangladeshi media and commentators as an "insult."

For some, the move revived memories of American backing for Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971, and the fact Washington only recognized the country's sovereignty a year after independence.