Secretary of State Madelein K. Albright
Remarks to the Asia Society
Washinton, D.C., March 14, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am indeed delighted to be here. Thank you very, very much, Ambassador Wisner, and to you as well to Marshall Bouton and the entire Asia Society. It's a great pleasure to be here. Ambassador Lodhi and Ambassador Gautam, it is a pleasure to have you here and other excellencies of the diplomatic corps; colleagues and friends from the worlds of scholarship and public policy, Capitol Hill and the press.
I have to warn you: This is a long speech. It's a "wonky" speech, and it basically -- this, I think, is a perfect audience for it, because I think that you all have spent a great deal of time on the subject. I also, as I look around the audience, I see today people who signed an open letter to the President on the trip, and I think that you will find that many of your very thoughtful comments are reflected in the framework that I'm going to put forward here. At least, I hope you do.
I appreciate the chance to discuss the President's upcoming visit to South Asia. Our trip provides a rich opportunity to promote American interests in an area where a fifth of the world's people live, security risks are high, economic opportunities abound, and there is a potential for wide-ranging cooperation on global issues.
As befits the diversity of the region, our goals are many. In Bangladesh, we will both affirm and advance our friendship with a young democracy that was born in strife, and is surmounting huge obstacles.
During an extended visit to India, the President will seek to begin a new chapter in our relations with one of the world's leading countries and oldest civilizations. India is projected to pass China in size in the early decades of this century, and I can think of few greater gifts to the future than a strong and cooperative strategic relationship between India and the United States.
Finally, in Pakistan, the President will make clear our support for an early return to democratic rule, as well as our ongoing friendship for the Pakistani people.
In these areas and others, we are fortunate to have the support of America's South Asian communities. They are an amazing success story -- and a remarkable resource. For the fruits of their hard work, generosity and genius are manifest here and on the subcontinent. And every day they help bind America and the region closer together.
As the new century begins, our foreign policy priorities include building a healthy and growing world economy, halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, supporting democracy, and working with other nations to combat international terror, pollution, drug trafficking and disease.
We cannot succeed in meeting these priorities without South Asia. The President's trip offers us the opportunity to make progress towards each, and to forge ties that will benefit America for many years to come.
The first official stop on our schedule will be the first visit ever by an American president to Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh has a short history as an independent nation, it has already taken long strides to emerge from poverty and build an inclusive democracy. In the Muslim world and beyond, Bangladeshi democracy deserves recognition as a source of hope for its people and of inspiration to others.
We also want to support the constructive role Bangladesh plays in the international community. For example, it is a top contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions, and it has embarked with energy and distinction on a two-year term on the UN Security Council.
Bangladesh is also a valued partner on global issues. Last week it became the first South Asian country to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. And it is working to stamp out child labor in its garment export industry; preserve its tropical forests, and lift the lives of women and disadvantaged with a remarkable micro-lending program that has been emulated around the world.
There is also a very practical economic dimension to this visit. As Bangladesh has moved to join the global economy, American investment there has risen thirty-fold in three years. And with the right policies in place, Bangladesh could make a quantum leap forward by exploiting its vast energy resources, particularly in natural gas.
Regional corruption in this area -- I'm sorry. Regional cooperation in this area -- (Laughter). Not good. We'll get to corruption. Regional cooperation in this area would benefit Bangladesh and all of South Asia. American companies can be the perfect partners to help seize such opportunities.
America can be a strong partner for India, as well. And the President's visit to India will be the centerpiece of his trip. In fact, Bill Clinton's five-day visit to five cities will be the most extensive trip to that country ever by an American president.
At the time of the last such visit, I was about to join the National Security Council in the Carter Administration. And let me state one truth at the outset. Twenty-two years is far too long an interval between presidential trips to India.
For decades, the enormous potential of Indo-US relations went largely untapped. The main reason was an all-encompassing Cold War. As the world became bipolar, India chose its own path of non-alignment.
The result, in the words of a former Indian Ambassador to Washington, was that Indo-US ties exhibited "a pattern of misunderstanding, miscalculations, and missed opportunities."
That legacy left a burden of history on both our nations that is only now lifting. Even after the Cold War's end, the United States and India were slow to explore in depth the many areas where our interests increasingly converge. We also failed to lay a fresh foundation for managing our differences.
The hesitation was on both sides. In some quarters in India, there was a lingering suspicion of US intentions in world affairs. And on the American side, some could not or would not understand India's compulsions and aspirations.
Today, however, this mindset of mutual distrust is beginning to change. And, in fact, I believe that both the United States and India are coming to realize that there was always something unnatural and regrettable about the estrangement of our two democracies. Nor is the democratic bond between us merely an "intangible." To the contrary, the values and heritage we share are the bedrock for all our steps forward.
And we have been a rich source of ideas and inspiration for one another. Mahatma Gandhi studied Thoreau and the New England Transcendentalists -- who in turn were deeply indebted to ancient Indian philosophy. Martin Luther King, Jr. then looked to Gandhi's towering example of nonviolence. And the framers of India's Constitution looked to our own in developing their framework for a free society.
We both understand that true democracy is never achieved; it is always a pursuit. Human rights concerns in India are still being addressed -- particularly in the areas of trafficking in women and children, communal violence, and child labor. But for all our imperfections, the United States and India are the world's most visible messengers of the truth that secular, pluralist democracy not only can work, it does work.
By almost any measure of diversity, India is a world unto itself: seventeen officially recognized languages and 22,000 dialects; every major world religion -- including one of the largest Muslim populations on earth; an incredible collection of communities, creeds and cultures; and 600 million eligible voters in some 600,000 polling places -- exercising the miracle of self-government.
Considering the vast problems it inherited at independence, Indians have good reason to take pride in their country's survival as a democracy. And India has done more than survive -- it has made remarkable progress.
In half a century, the average life span in India has roughly doubled. In place of famine, a "Green Revolution" has brought surplus grain to export. And a social revolution is finally unlocking doors of economic and political opportunity for women and lower castes.
Huge challenges remain, however. Illiteracy is high. HIV/AIDS must be attacked with the same energy that has brought India to the verge of eradicating polio. And millions still cannot obtain clean water, make a telephone call, or afford even a bicycle for transportation.
But for all that, it is clear that -- particularly in recent years -- India has been on a rising road toward a better life for its people. It is in this context that next week, the leaders of the world's largest and oldest democracies will meet. And we have a great deal of long-awaited business to discuss.
One such area of business is business. The Indian economy was one of the great underreported success stories of the 1990s. By decade's end, the turn toward the free market that began in 1991 was yielding sustained growth rates of 6.5 percent per year.
And the greatest growth has come in areas that bode well for India's future. In recent years, software exports have jumped 50 percent annually -- with no end in sight. American companies from Apple and Texas Instruments to Oracle and Microsoft have come to India for its high "tech" and high skills.
And while other countries beat a path to India's door, it continues to enrich the globe with talent. Indians make up 30 percent of software workers worldwide.
This should come as no surprise, in light of the subcontinent's history and culture. The Indian civilization gave the world several key building blocks of modern mathematics. And today, India's pool of trained scientists and engineers is second in size only to our own.
In terms of purchasing power parity, India already has the world's fourth largest economy. By any yardstick, its middle class is one of the largest on the planet. And its massive economic takeoff is widely projected to continue.
In January, Treasury Secretary Summers told an Indian audience that a 10 percent annual growth rate is "well within your grasp." At that rate, India's standard of living would quintuple in just 20 years -- even accounting for population growth.
Toward that end, Indian governments have undertaken new economic reforms. Late last year, India took steps to open up its insurance sector to foreign investors. We hope it will follow suit in telecommunications and other new sectors.
India's economic reforms are a work in progress. The remaining hurdles include growth-choking deficiencies in transportation and infrastructure; remnants of the old license Raj; too much public borrowing; and poorly targeted subsidies. Changing all this will not be easy. But the overall trends are plainly in the right direction.
This, of course, is good news for India. And as India's largest trade and investment partner, it is also good news for us.
Our two-way trade and investment in India is projected to grow vastly over the next decade. Whatever its exact magnitude, the economic potential of enhanced Indo-American ties is clearly enormous. And we are determined to realize much more of this potential.
Strengthening democracy is another goal we share with India. So I am delighted that Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh will join me and five other foreign ministers as co-sponsors of the Community of Democracies initiative in Warsaw this June. This is a splendid example of the kind of ambitious and yet practical cooperation that India and the United States are in a unique position to pursue.
We also look forward to working, at both government and NGO levels, with a very active Indian presence at the 56th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
And during the upcoming visit, we will launch an Asian Center for Democratic Governance in Delhi. This independent forum will be jointly sponsored by the US National Endowment for Democracy and the Confederation of Indian Industries.
We are also working with India to expand our cooperation in a broad range of other important areas, including science and technology, social development, and exchanges such as the Fulbright program.
Clean energy is an area in which we are striving to strengthen our partnership and benefit our shared environment. Unless we act, India will suffer greatly from global climate change, and by acting together, we and India can also contribute greatly to solving this problem. And President Clinton's trip will underscore that in this high-tech era, India can both prosper in the global economy and protect the global environment.
That brings me, at last, to security issues.
The United States continues to seek universal adherence to the NPT. We believe the South Asian nuclear tests of May 1998 were a historic mistake. And UN Security Council Resolution 1172 makes it plain that the international community agrees with us.
We recognize fully: Only the Indian government has the sovereign right to make decisions about what is necessary for the defense of India and its interests. The United States does not regard India's missiles or nuclear weapons as a direct threat to us. But we do regard proliferation -- anywhere -- as our Number One security concern.
And for this reason, we must accept that significant progress in this area is necessary, before India and the United States can realize fully the vast potential of our relationship.
Deputy Secretary Talbott and Minister Singh have gone to unprecedented lengths to put our dialogue on these topics on a more productive footing. And the Cold War's end opened up new opportunities to work toward a world in which the risks and roles of nuclear weapons can be reduced, and ultimately eliminated. We and India agree that it would be tragic if actions now being taken led the world not toward seizing these opportunities, but instead toward new risks of nuclear war.
We have not yet found a way to create sufficient common ground on these issues. But I am convinced that our relationship today has the strength and breadth to keep working through our differences and find a way forward.
So we will continue to discuss how to pursue security requirements without contributing to a costly and destabilizing nuclear and missile arms race. Our goal is to ensure that people everywhere will be freed of such devastating dangers and economic burdens.
We believe that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would advance India's security interests -- as, by the way, it would advance our own. And that is why, yesterday, I appeared yesterday with General Shalikashvili to highlight the important role in the Administration's continuing efforts with the US Senate on the CTBT that General Shalikashvili will play.
We likewise believe that steps to strengthen India's already-effective system of export controls would be in our common interests. So would a global treaty to ban the production of fissile material for weapons -- and pending that, a multilateral moratorium.
India has emphasized that its decisions are not taken with a narrow regional focus, and we accept that point. But India's decisions also have consequences beyond South Asia. Here, prudence and clarity in India's plans and doctrines could yield great benefits. For a pattern of steeply rising defense budgets in Asia would serve neither the continent's security interests nor its development needs. Such principles of restraint are consistent with statements India's own leaders have made.
How India addresses all these issues will, of course, influence the decisions we make. But our goal is a qualitatively different and better relationship with India -- not a simple return to the status quo before the tests.
Our ability to attain this goal will depend largely on what India does. And the limits on our ability to cooperate with India are a matter of US law, as well as our international obligations. And our approach to nonproliferation is global. We cannot abandon it simply because we desire an improved relationship. Any other stance would break faith with all the nations -- from South Africa to South America to the former Soviet republics -- who have made difficult decisions to strengthen their own security and the cause of nonproliferation by joining the NPT. And it would give cover to states which, unlike India, might threaten us directly.
We will persist in our efforts to reconcile, to the greatest extent possible, our nonproliferation concerns with India's appreciation of its security requirements. Our dialogue on these subjects will be continued during the President's trip, and beyond.
One topic we will discuss in both India and Pakistan is the relationship between these two countries. Let me say a word about the President's decision to stop in Pakistan at the end of our trip. And on one key issue, I want to leave no room for doubt. In no way is this a decision to endorse the military coup or government led by General Musharraf. And no one should interpret it as such.
We are going to Pakistan because the United States has interests there which are important -- and urgent. Our interests include avoiding the threat of conflict in South Asia; fostering democracy in Pakistan; fighting terrorism; preventing proliferation; and doing what we can to help create an environment of regional peace and security; and reaching out to a people whose history is one of friendship with the United States.
The President is not going to Pakistan to mediate the Kashmir dispute. We have made it clear he will not do that unless both sides ask.
Last 4th of July, the President's ability to engage directly with the Pakistani Government played a key role in defusing a tense conflict in Kargil. For the President to maintain such lines of communication may be very important in any future crisis.
Some of you know that, when I was a young girl, my father worked as a diplomat at the UN on the problem of Kashmir. He wrote a book whose first chapter contains the simple but eloquent statement, "The history of Kashmir is a sad story." He is now dead, and I am old, and yet still this tragic story goes on.
But today, the conflict over Kashmir has been fundamentally transformed. For nations 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 an armed conflict, and all the more reason to restart a discussion on ways to build confidence and prevent escalation.
India and Pakistan today must find some way to move forward. The process is not one that the international community can prescribe for them. We only know that it will take courage -- but not the courage of soldiers.
And we can be sure of one more practical reality: Tangible steps must be taken to respect the Line of Control. For so long as this simple principle is violated, the people of Kashmir have no real hope of peace.
Another vital US interest in Pakistan is countering terrorism. The terrorist camps next door in Afghanistan directly threaten American lives. Because of Pakistan's influence with its neighbor, this matter will be high on the President's agenda.
General Musharraf has offered to go to Afghanistan himself to discuss concerns about terrorism. We hope to hear more from him about this. And we want to see steps to address the effects of terror on Pakistan's neighbors, notably India.
Nothing would do more to bolster the entire world's confidence in Pakistan's government than to learn that its people will regain their ability to choose their leaders sooner rather than later. And few things did more to undermine the confidence than the recent order that judges take an oath of loyalty to the military, rather than to the constitution.
In all these areas and others, we see opportunities not for mere gestures, but for real steps forward. For example, Pakistan's foreign minister has recently argued the advantages, from Pakistan's own standpoint, of early signature of the CTBT. Now, that would be the kind of coup for Pakistan -- and I guarantee, the international community would rally around it.
President Clinton will go to India, and also to Bangladesh and Pakistan, to strengthen America's bonds with a region that is growing in importance with each passing year. And in so doing, he will affirm on an official level what many in this room can testify to in their own lives.
For the connections between America and South Asia are manifest. They may come in the form of a physician from Mumbai who spends part of her time each year in Los Angeles; or a businessman in Boston who is developing a new technology with a firm in Dhaka; or a teacher from Tennessee who is working with young people in Islamabad.
In today's world, geography is no longer destiny. America and South Asia are distant, but we are linked in the opportunities we have, the threats we face, and the changes to which we must respond.
President Clinton's historic visit offers the prospect of a welcome new chapter in our relations with India and her neighbors. But although that chapter may begin with a visit from the White House, it will be written by the people of all our countries.
For the President's visit, I ask your support next week. For the larger task, I urge your active participation in the months and years to come.
Thank you all very much for your attention.