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South Asia Nuclear Crisis

Exchange of Letters between General Musharraf & Senator Johnson

South Asia Nuclear Crisis - Special Feature

Note: Senator Tim Johnson (Democrat - South Dakota) visited Pakistan in January 2000. General Musharraf's letter to the Senator followed a February 1 announcement by the White House that President Clinton would be visiting India and Bangladesh in March - according to the White House statement: "No decisions have been taken about other stops." The letters featured below were released to the press by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington on February 6.

Letter from Senator Johnson, February 1

Dear General Musharraf:

I appreciated the opportunity to meet with you and your colleagues during my recent visit to Pakistan. I had a wonderful trip and learned even more about the issues important to both of our countries. I want to thank you for your time and hospitality during my stay in Pakistan.

Pakistan has many friends and supporters in the United States Congress who remember how the Pakistan government and its people stood by the United States during some of the tensest days of the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the peacekeeping operations in Somalia, Bosnia, and other troubled regions. These supporters are also sympathetic to Pakistan's call for a peaceful resolution of tensions with India over Kashmir. As you may recall, just a few months ago 61 members of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives signed a letter to President Clinton asking him to appoint a special envoy to encourage Pakistani-Indian negotiations over Kashmir.

I believe it is very important for the President to visit Pakistan at the same time he visits India. Indeed, by visiting both countries the President can encourage India and Pakistan to sit down and resolve their differences, including Kashmir, by negotiation and not by confrontation - just as he has done so successfully in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and Bosnia. To visit India and not Pakistan would be counter-productive to the United States maintaining a balanced and even-handed position on the sub-continent which is so vital to ensuring that the United States can play a constructive role in reducing tensions.

However, I understand that the Administration has not yet made a decision on the Pakistan visit because of concerns about your government's position primarily in three areas: the restoration of democracy; terrorism; and nuclear proliferation. I share their concerns as well. I would appreciate your clarification of the government's policy in each of these areas at your earliest convenience, with the understanding that I am free to forward such statements to President Clinton and to release them publicly to the United States media.

Again, I appreciate having had the opportunity to meet with you when I was recently in Pakistan to discuss these important issues. Thank you again for your time and attention to this request.


Tim Johnson

United States Senate

Letter from General Musharraf, February 4

Dear Senator Johnson,

I thank you for your letter of 1st February and appreciate the useful exchange of views I had with you when you visited Pakistan recently. We greatly value friends like yourself and their endeavors for sustaining a strong relationship of cooperation between Pakistan and the United States.

You have rightly pointed out that collaboration between our two countries served the interest of regional and international peace in the past and its preservation is important for the future. US support and Pakistan's role during the Afghan liberation struggle, the last front of the Cold War, contributed to a momentous global transformation. As a result, the world witnessed resurgence of freedom and independence of captive nations. Our two countries have cooperated closely in peace keeping operations in several troubled spots of the world. Pakistan was a bridge for the Sino-US rapprochement, which has been a seminal development of our times. Altogether, Pakistan-American cooperation has been a positive factor for peace and progress in world affairs for half a century and we want to see it remain so in the future.

I agree with you that it is important for President Clinton to visit Pakistan when he is in the region next month. In addition to a number of important issues of mutual concern to our two countries, President Clinton's visit will provide a unique opportunity to discuss and promote peaceful solution of Kashmir which is the root cause of tensions and conflict in South Asia. This will also be consistent with President Clinton's personal commitment, which has been a source of hope for durable peace.

We greatly appreciate the concern expressed by 61 members of the Senate and the House of Representatives in their letter to President Clinton asking him to appoint a Special Envoy to encourage Pakistan and India for negotiations on Kashmir. This initiative is timely and in the interest of peace in our region.

Regrettably, India is stubbornly pursuing a military solution to Kashmir and has intensified repression, encouraged by an apparent international complacency. This will further aggravate tension and escalate violence in the region. A political solution which satisfies the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people alone can bring to an end the Kashmir conflict. This is the reason why we urge the United States to play in Kashmir the same admirable role which has helped to heal the pain in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the Middle East.

During our meeting in Islamabad, we had the opportunity of focusing on the three areas of concern identified by you. We share your concerns and my Government has clear and forward looking positions on these issues. My Government is firm in our resolve to bring genuine democracy in the country. The people of Pakistan want institutions which can give them a real sense of participation, empowerment and responsibility. Meanwhile, the fundamental rights, including the freedom of the press, are fully safeguarded.

It is the endeavor of my Government to rehabilitate the democratic process through devolution of power and ensure that elected representative bodies are in place at the district level before the end of the current year. The necessary steps are in hand for electoral rolls, computerisation of registration and fresh delimitation of constituencies.

I feel that it would be self-defeating to hold national elections at this stage, before the much needed reforms are implemented and consolidated. It is vital that genuine functional democracy is built on the basis of sound institutions to avoid the disappointing experiences of the past. The objective of electoral reforms is as much a priority of my Government as economic revival, improved governance, law and other accountability. In these endeavors we look to the support and understanding of our friends.

Pakistan's opposition to any form of terrorism is unequivocal and unconditional. Only a couple of days ago, I met the Afghan President and briefed him in detail about the global concern over terrorism and the need for Pakistan and Afghanistan to take practical steps to combat this evil. I am happy to say that the Afghan President was responsive and shared these concerns and strongly reaffirmed his government's policy not to allow Afghan soil to be used for any acts of terrorism.

You will recall that Pakistan had condemned the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft and had publicly stated that they hijackers will be apprehended and brought to justice if found on the territory of Pakistan. We do not condone acts of terrorism even by misguided Kashmiri freedom fighters, since such acts can only hurt the Kashmiri cause. We, therefore, doubt the motivations and credentials of those who are responsible for this crime. India, on the other hand, is making every effort to use this episode to malign Pakistan and put a distance between Pakistan and the United States. Such sinister designs must be firmly countered and exposed.

Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism sponsored from outside. We are witness to the ravages of state sponsored terrorism in Kashmir. We condemn and oppose all forms of terrorism which cannot be condoned even if perpetrated in the name of a freedom struggle or religion.

Pakistan has always been sensitive to international concerns on nuclear proliferation. Every initiative to keep our region free of nuclear weapons emanated from Pakistan. We did not initiate the May 1998 tests, but the Indian tests and India's hostile posture towards Pakistan verging on nuclear blackmail after the tests, made it imperative for us to restore the strategic balance and establish nuclear deterrence. Simultaneously, however, we declared a moratorium on further testing, expressed our opposition to a nuclear arms race and make our offer to India to negotiate a nuclear strategic regime.

We also engaged in a dialogue with the US on the four nuclear benchmarks by President Clinton. Our positive attitude during this dialogue has been evident in our positions relating to export controls, nuclear and missile restraint, our constructive position in Geneva on FMCT negotiations and even the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We have set in motion a process of discussions for building support to enable the Government to sign the treaty. A major hurdle in preparing public opinion is the coercive environment caused by the sanctions which we regard as unjust. Our Public also cannot ignore the ambitious nuclear program unveiled by India in the recent months.

On our part, we remain committed to pursuing a nuclear policy of responsibility and restraint based on minimum credible deterrence to ensure our security. We remain opposed to an arms race, nuclear or conventional, in our region, and we believe that the resources of the region must be channeled for the welfare and the better future of its people.

I hope this letter will help you and your colleagues towards better understanding of the position of the Government of Pakistan on the issues that you had asked me to address. I thank you again for your interest in the issues of our concern and for your efforts to promote understanding and friendship between our two countries.

(General Pervez Musharraf)

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.