News Release

Independent Task Force Issues Open Letter to President on Eve of His Trip to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

An Independent Task Force, while welcoming the first presidential visit to India in 22 years, to Pakistan in 30 years, and the first ever to Bangladesh, states that “South Asia is a far more dangerous place than it was only one or two years ago” and that “relations between India and Pakistan have sunk to a dangerous level, one that could all too easily lead to conflict.”

The Task Force sets forth 4 goals for President Clinton?s trip and for the remainder of the administration: to build an expanded, post-Cold War relationship with India; to stem the drift toward war between India and Pakistan; to persuade Pakistan to embrace economic reform, the rule of law, and more responsible behavior versus terrorism; and to highlight the potential success of Bangladesh as a moderate, Islamic country.

The Task Force warns the President to resist the temptation to place ambitious, nuclear weapons-related goals at the center of U.S. aims vis-à-vis India. “Any attempt to persuade India to eliminate its nuclear arsenal will fail and poison the atmosphere for the constructive discussion of issues …” It also urges both India and Pakistan to take steps to reduce the chance of conflict over Kashmir — but advises the United States to get directly involved in diplomacy relating to Kashmir only if all parties so desire.

The Task Force open letter maintains that President Clinton is correct in visiting Pakistan, a country in danger of failing. But it adds that he needs to advise Pakistan’s rulers that their behavior risks Pakistan being placed on the state sponsors of terrorism list and triggering a confrontation with India. The Task Force adds that it is essential that the President communicate directly with the people of Pakistan (and not simply meet with General Musharraf) and underscore U.S. support for open markets and political freedom.

The Independent Task Force was co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations and chaired by Richard N. Haass, Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at Brookings. The open letter was signed by 22 members of the Task Force, who include former U.S. ambassadors to both India and Pakistan and experts on both South Asia and non-proliferation policy. Those signing the letter endorse its general policy thrust and judgments but not necessarily every finding and recommendation. This product of the Independent Task Force builds on two previous reports, After the Tests: U.S. Policy Toward India and Pakistan (1998) and A New U.S. Policy Toward India and Pakistan (1997).

The Task Force letter was signed by the following individuals: Richard K. Betts, Director, National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Bruce Blair, President, Center for Defense Information; Marshall Bouton, Executive Vice President, Asia Society; Michael T. Clark, Executive Director, U.S.-India Business Council; Stephen P. Cohen, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution; Zachary S. Davis, International Nuclear Affairs Specialist, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress; Francine Frankel, Director, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania; Sumit Ganguly, Visiting Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University; Neil Joeck, Political Analyst, Directorate for Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and International Security, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Geoffrey Kemp, Director, Regional Strategic Programs, The Nixon Center; Robert Manning, Director, Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Meghan L. O’Sullivan, Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution; Robert Oakley, Former Ambassador to Pakistan; George Perkovich, Director, Secure World Program, W. Alton Jones Foundation; Daniel Poneman, Partner, Hogan and Hartson, L.L.P.; Gideon Rose, Deputy Director, National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Teresita Schaeffer, Director, South Asia Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies; General Gordon Sullivan, President, Association of the U.S. Army; Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Director, South Asia Program, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS; Ashley Tellis, Senior Policy Analyst, RAND, Washington, DC; and Frank Wisner, Former Ambassador to India.

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