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Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Vajpayee of India in Joint Press Statement

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Trip to South Asia


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 21, 2000


Hyderabad House
New Delhi, India

1:03 P.M. (L)

PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: I am delighted to welcome President Clintonto India. His visit provides us a unique opportunity for historicconfirmation in our relations. We have just concluded a very productivemeeting. President Clinton and I have had an in-depth exchange of views onmany subjects. Our two delegations have also held extensive discussions.Our discussions have been warm, friendly and candid, reflecting our commondesire to build a new relationship of mutual trust and respect.

Our objective is to forge a durable, politically constructive andeconomically productive partnership between the world's two largestdemocracies. I think with President Clinton's visit and our meeting todaywe have laid a firm foundation for the future.

President Clinton and I have just signed a vision statement. Thestatement outlines the contours of and defines the agenda of ourpartnership in the 21st century. We both agreed that our commitment to theprinciples and practice of democracy constitutes the bedrock of ourrelations and for our cooperative efforts internationally for peace,prosperity and democrative freedom.

We have also concluded agreements and understandings on theestablishment of very wide-ranging dialogue architecture. Closer contactsbetween our business and scientific communities will be encouraged. Bothcountries will endeavor to enhance trade and investment, cooperate inenergy and environment, and to draw upon the vast array of talent,especially in the area of information technology and frontier sciences forthe betterment of the lives of their peoples.

We share a common concern at the growing threat of terrorist violenceand its links with religious extremism and illegal trade in narcotics.Both of us expressed our firm opposition to the use of any form ofviolence, whether as an instrument of terror against democratic society oras a means of realizing territorial ambition. Nothing justifies the use ofsuch matters against innocent people. We expressed our determination tointensify our cooperation in this area.

President Clinton and I had a frank discussion on the issues ofdisarmament and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Thedialogue which is in progress between our two countries on these issues hasenhanced the mutual understanding of our respective concerns. I'veexplained to President Clinton the reasons that compel us to maintain aminimum nuclear deterrent. I have reiterated our firm commitment not toconduct further nuclear explosive tests, not to engage in a nuclear armsrace, and not to be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.

We have resolved to continue a dialogue and to work together incooperation with other countries to help bring about a peaceful and secureworld completely free of the threat of all weapons of mass destruction.

In our discussion of regional issues, I reiterated our policy ofdeveloping friendly and cooperative relations with all our neighbors inaccordance with established principles of good neighborly relations,respect for each of their sovereignty and territorial integrity and on thebasis of agreements solemnly entered into. India remains committed toresolving its difference with its neighbors through peaceful bilateraldialogue and in an atmosphere free from the thought of force and violence.

We agreed that problems between countries of the region should beresolved peacefully by the concerned countries themselves. As a means ofimplementing our agenda, a partnership in the 21st century, we have agreedto regular summit meetings. President Clinton has invited me toWashington; I am delighted to accept.

The President will have the opportunity over the next few days to seethe rich cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of our country; toexperience the warmth and friendship of our people; to witness the delicateblend of tradition and modernity in our society; and to feel the democraticpulse of our large nation. I wish the President and the members of hisdelegation a very pleasant stay in India.

In that end, I would like to make some remarks on the tragic events inJammu and Kashmir yesterday. The brutal massacre of 36 Sikhs in Jammu andKashmir last night is further evidence of the ethnic cleansing that hasbeen underway for a decade, and is part of a pattern that we haveexperienced earlier, including during my visit to Lahore last year. Thenation and the entire civilized community is outraged at this premeditatedact of barbarism, and joins us in condemning this act.

The attempt at cloaking ethnic terrorism in the guise of Jihad carriesno conviction. We and the international community reject the notion thatJihad can be a part of any civilized country's foreign policy. None shoulddoubt the determination of the people of India to safeguard the secularunity of our society. Together we have defeated all of the challengesin the past, and we shall do so again. We have the means and the will toeliminate this menace.

Thank you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you, Prime Minister, for your remarks andfor the warm welcome that you, your delegation, and the people of Indiahave given to me and my family and the Americans who have come with me.

It has been 22 years since a United States President has visited thiscountry. Of course, that is not much time in the grand sweep of India'scivilization, but it is close to half your history since becomingindependent. That is far too long, and this day is, therefore, longoverdue. I am glad to be here.

As the world's two largest democracies, we are united in believingthat every person's dignity should be respected, and every person'spotential fulfilled. There is no better example of the power of freedomand opportunity to liberate human potential than the success that Americansof Indian heritage have enjoyed in our nation.

I have come to India because I want us to build a dynamic and lastingpartnership, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. India and Americashould be better friends and stronger partners. In a world of increasingglobalization, our futures plainly are intertwined. Today we have agreedto hold regular meetings between our heads of government and top officials.I thank the Prime Minister for accepting my invitation to visit the UnitedStates later this year. We have just signed, as you know, a joint visionstatement that outlines the goal we share and the challenges we face.

The world has become a better place as more nations have joined us onthe unfolding path of democracy. We want democracy to spread and deepen;to protect human rights, including the rights of women and minorities.

This June our two countries will convene the Community of Democraciesmeeting in Warsaw. I thank the Prime Minister for the leadership of Indiain this important endeavor. And I'm pleased that our National Endowmentfor Democracy, the Confederation of Indian Industry, and the Bureau ofParliamentary Studies here will organize the Asian Center for DemocraticGovernance, based here in New Delhi, to share our common experience withthe hope of advancing freedom across Asia.

Both our nations now enjoy strong economic growth. Both arepioneering the information revolution. Today we've reached agreement tobring more jobs and opportunities to our people, to accelerate tradebetween us, to help India's financial markets and assist its smallbusinesses, to institute a regular economic dialogue between ourgovernments.

We both face, still, the challenges of better educating our children,lifting them from poverty, protecting them from disease and environmentalperil. Today, these are global challenges; what happens in one nationaffects others across their borders. We have agreed to face thesechallenges together. And together we can succeed.

Finally, both our nations want a peaceful future. I recognize thatIndia has real security concerns. We certainly share your outrage andheartbreak over last night's brutal attack in Kashmir. We offer ourprofoundest sympathies to the people, especially to the families of thevictims. It reminds us of what tremendous suffering this conflict hascaused India. The violence must end. This should be a time for restraint,for respect for the line of control, for renewed lines of communication.

I also stressed that at a time when most nations, including the UnitedStates and Russia, are making real progress in moving away from nuclearweapons, the world needs India to lead in the same direction.

While I am here, I will have the opportunity to speak with Indiansabout these issues and listen, as I have today, to the concerns of India'sleaders and its people. Then our discussions will continue after I leave.I say again, we have neglected this relationship for more than two decades.It is too important to ever fall into disrepair again. I am committed tobuilding a stronger partnership. And we are committed to building a betterworld.

I look forward to spending the next four days here, meeting with yourpeople, learning more about a rich history and culture I have long admired,and strengthening a friendship that indeed is critical to the future of theentire planet.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Q (Inaudible.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. I'll come get it when we finish thequestions, how's that?

Q This question is addressed to the Prime Minister. How did yourone-to-one talks go, and what are your expectations of the future ofIndia-U.S. relations?

PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: I'm glad you asked that question. As youcan see, our talks have gone very well. We discussed substantive issuesrelating to bilateral relations. We discussed the situation in South Asiain a very frank and candid manner. I'm sure, as a result of this visit,and as a result of the discussion, a new chapter is being added into ourbilateral relations.

Q Mr. President, did you make any progress, did you achieve anyprogress today in persuading Prime Minister Vajpayee to take any of thespecific steps that you have urged to restrain India's nuclear program --specifically, signing the CTBT, banning the production of fissile materialsand tightening export controls? If you didn't make any progress today, andif you don't in the future, how close can this new relationship that youboth have spoken of become?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, on this whole nonproliferationissue, we have had a dialogue that has gone on for some time now under theleadership of Mr. Singh and Mr. Talbott. And I would like to thank theIndian government for that work.

Secondly, I felt today that there was a possibility that we couldreach more common ground on the issues of testing, on the production offissile material, on export controls and on restraint, generally.

With regard to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, you heard the PrimeMinister's statement about his position on testing. I would hope that thedemocratic process will produce a signing and ultimately a ratification ofthe Comprehensive Test Ban in India, just like I hope the democraticprocess will ultimately produce a ratification of the Test Ban Treaty inAmerica that I signed. These are contentious issues. But I'm actuallyquite optimistic about our ability to make progress on them.

And, again, I thank the Prime Minister for sanctioning what I thinkhas been a very honest and thorough-going dialogue. We've been working onthis for some time, and we will continue to do it. And I believe we willwind up in a common position.

Q This question is addressed to both President Clinton and PrimeMinister Vajpayee. Thirty-five people were massacred in the valleyyesterday, and both of you have expressed outrage at the incident. In thecontext of ongoing India-U.S. cooperation on counterterrorism, what areyour reactions to this, and did this come up during your discussions onterrorism?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Would you like to go first, Prime Minister?

Let me ask you this, could you just repeat just the question youasked? Did this come up in our discussions -- yes, it did. Ask me theprevious question you asked. I want to make sure I understood it.

Q In the context of ongoing India-U.S. cooperation oncounterterrorism, did you discuss this issue in terms of -- did you discussthis in the context of international terrorism? And did this question comeup just in terms of the violence?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, we discussed it at some lengthand I expressed privately to the Prime Minister my outrage about it --apparently the first targeting of the Sikhs in Kashmir. I don't think --the answer to your question is, I don't suppose it came up in the contextof overall terrorism in the sense that it just happened last night. Wehave to know who did it before there could be a conclusion about that.

But I think that the targeting of innocent civilians is the worstthing about modern conflicts today. And the extent to which more and morepeople seem to believe it is legitimate to target innocent civilians toreach their larger political goals, I think that's something that has to beresisted at every turn. There should be less violence in Kashmir, notmore. And when people take on others, they ought to be those that have theresponsibility for defending -- if somebody wants to fight, at least theyought to leave the civilians alone.

I think this is a horrible development in Kashmir, but, unfortunately,it's becoming all too common around the world. And one of the thing that Ihope we'll be able to do together is to reduce the incidence of violenceagainst innocent civilians, not only here, but in other parts of the worldas well.

Q Mr. Prime Minister, if you'd like?

PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: I have nothing more to add.

Q Thank you. Mr. President, you said in February that South Asiawas perhaps the most dangerous place in the world today. Given themassacre yesterday and the increasing nuclear tensions, do you think thatthe risk of another war is increasing?

And to the Prime Minister, sir, who do you hold responsible for themassacre yesterday and what do you mean when you say "we have the will andthe means to eliminate this menace"?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Your turn. (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: I'll take my turn. (Laughter.)

I'm sure after visiting this part of the world, the President willcome to the conclusion that the situation is not so bad as it is made outto be. There are differences; there have been clashes; there is theproblem of cross-country terrorism; innocent people are being killed. Butthere is no threat of any war. India is committed to peaceful means. Weare prepared to solve all our problems, discuss all problems on the table.We do not think in terms of war, and nobody should think in those terms inthis subcontinent.

So far as the massacre is concerned, it's a brutal act, an outrage.This is not for the first time, it has been going on. And whenever thereare chances of both countries coming together -- and at thepeople-to-people level our relations are very good, as I realized when Ivisited Lahore -- but there is a deliberate design to foment trouble, toencourage killing, mass murders; to sabotage any attempt to bring aboutnormalcy in this part of the world. This policy is not going to pay. AndI hope this question will be discussed by the President in Islamabad.

Q Mr. President?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Terry, to go back to the questions you asked me --first of all, I was encouraged by what the Prime Minister said to me inprivate, which was just what he said to you in public, that he did not wantany of the difficulties that we have been discussing today to become theoccasion for war.

I have basically four beliefs about this whole thing, and I can statethem very concisely. First, I think that that sort of restraint issomething that everyone on the subcontinent should practice. Second, Ithink there must be a respect for the line of control. Third, I think someway must be found to renew the dialogue.

The Prime Minister did, I thought, a brave thing in participating inthe Lahore process. He took some risks to do it. He'd always said thatjust the facts of geography and shared history called upon him to do that.But you cannot expect a dialogue to go forward unless there is an absenceof violence and a respect for the line of control.

And the last thing that I would say is, I doubt very seriously thatthere is a military solution to the difficulties that the Kashmiris face,and that makes the death of these six all the more tragic, and theimportance of trying to restart the dialogue all the more important -- notjust over this, but other issues as well.

And the Prime Minister said he hoped I would say that in Islamabad,and I will. I don't believe -- one of the nice things about having youfolks with us all the time is that we can't get away with saying one thingin one place and a different thing in another. We almost have to say thesame thing everywhere or you'll find us out. So I can tell you that thisis my same message -- respect the line of control, show restraint, standagainst violence, restore the dialogue.

Thank you.  

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