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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 59, July - August 2001

News Review

No Summit Breakthrough in South Asia as US Reviews Sanctions

Tensions between India and Pakistan remain unalleviated following the unsatisfactory summit meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and recently self-appointed President General Pervez Musharraf in Agra, India, in mid-July. The meeting ended on July 16 without a joint declaration being issued, reportedly due to predictably deep differences over the bitter conflict in Kashmir. On July 17, US State Department spokesperson Philip Reeker responded positively to the fact that the two sides had met at the highest level, ending "a two-year freeze in high-level contacts".

As reported in the last issue, the Bush administration is evidently keen to lift all remaining sanctions against India, and if possible Pakistan, imposed after the May 1998 nuclear tests. The situation with regard to Pakistan is complicated by an additional layer of sanctions imposed after the military coup of October 1999. On August 14, General Musharraf announced that full elections to both Houses of parliament and all Provincial assemblies would take place from October 1-11, 2002.

Addressing the Indian American Friendship Council in Washington on July 17, Christina B. Rocca, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, gave a clear indication of the direction of US policy toward New Delhi: "[A] review on our sanctions policy is now underway. ... Non-proliferation remains an important goal of US policy. But we want to expand and transform our engagement on defence issues, talking more about potential areas of cooperation while continuing to narrow our remaining differences. A major change that is already detectable in our security dialogue, I think, is that we are now discussing a much wider range of topics." Speaking in Islamabad on August 2, Rocca noted: "Nuclear-related and democracy sanctions have prevented us from pursuing cooperation with Pakistan as far as would be hoped. The administration is currently looking at the entire sanctions regime with a fresh eye."

Speaking in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 10, Admiral Denis Blair, Commander-in-Chief of US Pacific Command, told reporters: "We do not want our military relations with India to take place at the expense of Pakistan... The United States is now looking at cooperation as [a] means of achieving its nuclear policy objectives [in the region]... These policy objectives include non-proliferation, a high nuclear threshold, and a [credible] nuclear doctrine..."

Reports: Reuters, July 10; India, Pakistan fail to reach deal, Associated press, July 16; Excerpt - State's Reeker praises India-Pakistan summit, Washington File, July 17; Text - Bush administration intends to strengthen relations with India, Washington File, July 18; Text - Rocca sums up visit to Pakistan, Washington File, August 2; Pakistan ruler says democracy to return October 2002, Reuters, August 14.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.