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South Asia Nuclear Crisis

Vaypayee/Musharraf Interviews, March 2000: Newsweek Press Release

"Late this week President Clinton sets off on a tour of south Asia. He will spend five days in India, the first President to visit that country in 22 years. On his way home, he will stop in Pakistan for a few hours. Indo-Pakistani tensions are running at an all-time high. The flash point is Kashmir, the disputed territory where the two nations last year fought a bitter war. Last week Newsweek's Lally Weymouth interviewed India's prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Excerpts:


Weymouth: 'Will President Clinton's visit to India mark the beginning of a new chapter in the Indo-US relationship?'

Vajpayee: "We hope that the president's visit will add a new page in Indo-US relations. There have been a lot of doubts and tensions. They need to be set aside and replaced by mutual trust and understanding of each other's concerns.'

Weymouth: 'You took a tremendous risk for peace when you traveled last year by bus to Lahore, Pakistan, to meet with then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Do you feel you were betrayed by Pakistan when it subsequently launched an attack on Indian Kashmir at Kargil? Is it possible to get talks restarted with Pakistan?'

Vajpayee: 'From the very beginning, India has been endeavoring to develop friendly relations. I went to Lahore with the hope that a new beginning would be made. We are neighbors, and we have to live together as friends or in an indifferent manner. My visit once again convinced me that the people of both countries, India and Pakistan, want to live in peace. Then came the Kargil. It was a rude shock to me. Now a proper climate has to be created for resuming talks. So long as cross-border terrorism is there and the hostile propaganda against India continues, no useful purpose will be served by having talks.'

Weymouth: 'People say that Pakistani strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf was the architect of the May 1999 attack on Kargil. Is it possible to work with him?'

Vajpayee: 'Politicians should really forget the past if a new beginning could be made for the future. But I don't see any sign of a new beginning.I heard that Musharraf has been sending messages through various people that he would like to have talks at some level with India. Messages are not necessary. What is necessary is action…'

Weymouth: 'Do you mean no more terrorism?'

Vajpayee: 'No more terrorism and a commitment that all problems, including Kashmir, will be solved by peaceful means.'

Weymouth: 'Are you worried about the threat of a nuclear war over Kashmir?'

Vajpayee: 'No. There is no possibility. I completely rule out a nuclear war.'

Weymouth: 'There are daily artillery clashes in Kashmir, and tensions are high between the two countries. Are you concerned, and is there a role for the United States to play?'

Vajpayee: 'There is no role for any third party, however well intentioned. We would like to solve the problems bilaterally.' …

Weymouth: 'Were you disappointed by the US reaction to the October military coup in Pakistan? Should the United States have been more forceful in denouncing it?'

Vajpayee: 'Yes, that is what we had expected. The United States has condoned the military coup.'

Weymouth: 'In December 1998 you said at the United Nations that India would sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty a year later. Will India sign CTBT in the near future?'

Vajpayee: 'The matter is under discussion. We are evolving a consensus. We are a democracy, and on such important international issues we proceed on the basis of a consensus. What I said in the United Nations was that India would not stand in the way of the treaty being implemented. First, all the nations which matter the most have to sign the treaty. That has not happened as yet. The vote in the US Senate came as a negative development so far as the people of India are concerned.'

Weymouth: 'It was well known that India had a nuclear capability. Why, then, did you decide to conduct nuclear tests?'

Vajpayee: 'Because of the deteriorating security environment.'

Weymouth: 'Is India today more secure as a result of the tests?'

Vajpayee: 'Yes. [Nuclear capability] is a deterrent. That is all that we wanted to have - a minimum credible nuclear deterrent. We have already declared that there will be no further tests. We have also announced that India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. We will not use nuclear weapons against non=nuclear-weapon states either.'


Weymouth: 'What do you hope to achieve during Clinton's visit?'

Musharraf: 'I am extremely pleased that the president has finally decided to visit Pakistan. This is a recognition of the importance Pakistan has inthe region, of the 52-year friendship we have with the US and of the righteousness of our stand on Kashmir.'

Weymouth: 'Do you think the president is endorsing your position on Kashmir?'

Musharraf: 'He has said he is not going to mediate on Kashmir, but [he can] facilitate a dialogue between India and Pakistan.'

Weymouth: 'Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee went to Pakistan a year ago to seek peace, but shortly thereafter Pakistan attacked at Kargil.'

Musharraf: 'These are all excuses. They continue to use the past for not moving forward by addressing the main issue, Kashmir.'

Weymouth: 'You are said to have been the architect of the attacks last May at Kargil.'

Musharraf: 'No. A democratic government was in place. Whatever happened was the government's decision.'

Weymouth: 'You've called for a jihad in Kashmir.'

Musharraf: 'Every Muslim around here is talking of jihad against India in Kashmir, because Kashmir is not India. It is a disputed territory.'

Weymouth: 'Do you agree that tensions between Pakistan and India are at an all-time high?'

Musharraf: 'Yes, there is too much tension on the Line of Control - much more than before.'

Weymouth: 'Are you worried that the tension could escalate into war now that you are both nuclear powers?'

Musharraf: 'I do not think it will get out of control. They know that there is a deterrence in place on our side.' …

Weymouth: 'Do you have a timetable to return to democracy?'

Musharraf: 'We will return to democracy. I have not given a final timetable of withdrawing and allowing the civil sector to function because there are certain objectives to be achieved in the area of economic revival, improved law and order and accountability.'

Weymouth: 'What is your position on signing CTBT?'

Musharraf: 'We have to develop consensus. I cannot take action without the support of the people of Pakistan.' …"

Source: 'Newsweek Interviews: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indian Prime Minister Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive Of Pakistan', Newsweek Press Release, March 11, 2000 http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/000311/ny_newswee_5.html

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