Scenesetter on the Visit of President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraft
Senior Administration Official
Foreign Press Center Background Briefing
February 12, 2002
Copyright (c)2002 by Federal News Service, Inc., 620 National Press Building, Washington, DC 20045, USA. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please email Jack Graeme at email@example.com or call (202) 824-0520.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Good morning. I'm happy to be here. Very pleased that some of the journalists who are traveling with President Musharraf could be here. Had the privilege of traveling to Pakistan twice with Secretary Powell to meet President Musharraf, and I was impressed both times.
As my good friend knows, I've told him how impressed I've always been with South Asia culture. I even tried to get William Safire to include the word chamchal (ph) once in the American political lexicon, but it didn't
take. But we'll keep trying, because that's important.
The president is very much looking forward to the arrival of President Musharraf later today and their meeting tomorrow. Their discussions will encompass the full range of bilateral and multilateral issues from education
improvement, economic assistance, military relations, Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, narcotics assistance and interdiction and health issues.
President Musharraf will also meet with other members of the Cabinet, including Secretary Powell, Secretary O'Neill, Secretary Evans.
I think all of you are familiar with the procedure of an official working visit, where he'll have a bilateral meeting with the president in the Oval Office, they'll do a press availability immediately following the bilateral meeting, and then they'll have a luncheon. President Musharraf will also be doing some things along with what the Pakistani embassy has arranged for him.
But we think this is exciting. We have an excellent relationship with Pakistan. We expect it to continue to improve. They have been a key and critical player in Operation Enduring Freedom, and we hope they will
continue to be. Now I'm open to any questions you may have.
MODERATOR: Okay. Questions? Let's start in the back, with -- (off mike) -- Tass.
Q Ivan Lebedev with the Russian new agency Tass. It looks like Pakistan has fulfilled all the U.S. demands that were put forward immediately after September 11. And my question is, what, on your view -- what other steps should Pakistani government undertake at this stage of anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan and in the region?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I think you mean "requests." We didn't make any demands on Pakistan. We asked for Pakistan's assistance, and President Musharraf made a principal decision to join the global coalition. They have been a key part of our support, our military success, border security. They have done a very good job in trying to prevent al Qaeda and Taliban elements from slipping across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
As you know, in November, we announced a package of border security assistance to improve their capabilities, because of the very long and porous border they have with Afghanistan.
And we were extremely pleased last week to see the outcome of Chairman Karzai's visit to Islamabad. He enjoyed a very, very good visit with President Musharraf. And we're sure that they're going to have good relations.
Q Khalid Hasan, the Associated Press of Pakistan. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Biden, said yesterday, in an interview given to India Abroad, that the U.S. must play a proactive role in bringing about a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, which has kept the region in turmoil. Now, what do you have to say to that?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I very much enjoyed reading India Abroad every week when I was in New Delhi. It was a very good paper.
The administration's policy is longstanding that we are looking not to mediate between India and Pakistan and Kashmir; we are looking to assist if both parties request our assistance. We hope, however, that the current
tensions are reduced and that we can not have any hostilities in the subcontinent that would detract from Operation Enduring Freedom or undermine the coalition or cause instability in the subcontinent.
Q So you think you do not wish to play a proactive role. You do not wish to play a proactive role?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think I said what we'd like to do, which is, if both parties want our assistance, then we would be willing to help. Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: Let's go over here.
Q Parasuram from the Press Trust of India.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q Recently there appears to be no or not much difference in the cross-border terrorism of Pakistan. Will that be a part of the talks between President Bush and President Musharraf? And will you be pressing Pakistan to not help the terrorists who continue to infiltrate across the border into India.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Again, Secretary Powell; the president; my boss, Dr. Rice have been working very hard with both parties to reduce tensions in Kashmir. We know that Secretary Powell has been engaged in almost daily phone conversations with Foreign Minister Singh and President Musharraf. Dr. Rice has called her counterparts, National Security Adviser Mishra (sp) and Principal Secretary Ali (sp), several times.
The president has called Musharraf and Vajpayee several times so that we can prevent war, have peace. And we'll continue to do that.
We were very pleased at President Musharraf's speech of January 12th, in which he banned the extremist groups in Pakistan and said that no extremist group would be able to operate in Pakistan or from Pakistan. And
we take him at his word.
Q My name's Shiva (ph) with the Hindu newspaper. In terms of substantive outcomes of the meeting between the two presidents tomorrow, what do you expect? Any kind of packages, economic, defense? What could we
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No, Shiva-gi (ph), I think I'll leave that to the president to make an announcement tomorrow. Thank you.
Q Steve Cohenson (sp) with AFP. President Musharraf has suggested that there might be an Indian role in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl. Do you have any comment on that, please?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I never heard that President Musharraf said that. But what I would like to say, we were very please today to learn that Sheikh had been arrested in Lahore, the alleged kidnapper of Daniel Pearl, and taken to, or is being transported to Karachi for interrogation by the Pakistani police and authorities in connection with Mr. Pearl's case. We are still making every effort possible to find and secure Mr. Pearl's release.
Q My name is Neya Zhedi (ph), and I represent the Daily Jung (ph). We have been hearing a lot about, you know, the cross-border terrorism, but I think if we go back -- I have to give this background to frame my question. You know, in 1971, India set up the model for invading a sovereign country and dismembering it, which was a model for Saddam Hussein later on for invasion of Kuwait. And then there was a suicide bomber which killed Rajiv Ghandi, the prime minister. So is the United States putting some sort of pressure that India should try to curb activities that -- to set up a model for the terrorists around the world, like what is happening in the Middle East? Suicide bombing came, I think, from Indian model. So is the United States trying to persuade India to -- and there's not only
Kashmir. There 18 uprisings in India, all domestic, you know, terrorism. And states like Tamil Nadu, which are not disputed territory. So just singling out Pakistan for one incident, alleged incident, I think there is a bigger problem in India. And the sikhs are in revolt, and the Christians are being beaten up, and of course Muslims are in revolt. All this cannot be attributed to Pakistan.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I'm not so sure I understood your entire question or comment.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: But I would like to say that we have an excellent relationship with India. India is a democracy, stable. We believe that we should be able to have good relations with both India and Pakistan. We have several joint working groups with India, one of which is in counterterrorism, that were announced when Prime Minister Vajpayee paid his official working visit to the U.S. on November 9th. And we're very happy with the progress we're making with India on those counts.
Q Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily. Just so we'll be prepared for any announcement tomorrow, is it likely to include trade preferences or is there a likely agreement on textile quotas? (Light laughter.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (Chuckles.) Been waiting for that one. Again, as I said, we leave all announcements to the president.
Q John Lamb (sp), BBC. Following the secretary's trip to the region, which I believe you and I were on, how do you assess the state of tension between India and Pakistan? Has it in any way reduced? And have you been successful in fulfilling any of the -- effectively -- confidence-building measures that the secretary was proposing at that time?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, we believe it has reduced greatly, but dangers are still out there. Both countries have their troops poised at the borders. Their strike forces are in their respective parts of Kashmir.
So while we're pleased with the reduction in tension, we want to see more. We would like to see them begin to pull back their troops, especially their strike forces.
Q Hillary MacKenzie with Southam News. You spoke glowingly of the help that the U.S. received -- has received from Pakistan, and yet many of the al Qaeda and Taliban indeed did slip over the border, possibly even Osama bin Laden, if you believe some of the reports. Are there not going to be a few harsh words tomorrow on that?
And secondly, on the religious madrassas, Musharraf has said that he wants to do something about changing the curricula, but obviously he's treading a fairly fine line in terms of his own -- you know, the right wing and the people there. What is the U.S. doing and how much can it do?
And if I could slip in a third, I just wondered what pressure there is going to be brought up tomorrow in terms of keeping General Musharraf on the path toward free and fair elections? He did, after all, seize power in a coup.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I'll deal with your last question first. I think that we are pleased that President Musharraf has said that he will hold elections in October, on time, and that is an administration priority. He has told us that. We are going to keep reminding him of that. And we will look for ways to assist Pakistan and its people in the restoration of democracy.
The question about people slipping across the border. As I said, Pakistan has a huge and porous border, as does the United States with Mexico and Canada. Impossible to catch everyone, but we believe that Pakistan has
given good-faith efforts to capture people. We have no information at all that "UBL" or any of his lieutenants have been able to escape from Pakistan. We continue to look for them. It would be false of me to say that we know
where they are. I'm sorry, you had a third question?
Q In terms of the madrassas.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Oh, madrassas, yes. Madrassas is something that you may recall that on November 10th, the president and President Musharraf discussed. And since that time, they've had several discussions. President Musharraf has said that he has wanted to provide alternatives to madrassas. We think that they have cropped up because people do not have alternatives. Not sure what we'll be able to do on that, but that is something of great interest to us.
Q There is no specific in terms of linking up the madrassas with --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I'm glad you asked that, because when we started looking at those things, we found that there are several universities in America that already are linked -- the University of Nebraska is one that has a major program. And we are looking at some other universities for education programs. Harvard has a program where people in its business school could go work in Pakistani companies in the summer and provide
tutoring. Columbia University's medical school has a human rights program, they deal with ethics, for doctors and interns to go work in villages. So we were surprised and pleased to see how effective our universities have been in linking up with the Pakistani Ministry of Education and their nonprofit organizations.
Q I'm Javit Sidiq (ph) from Daily Nawa-i-wagt, Islamabad. I'll take you back to the Kashmir issue. You have spoken just one -- about one aspect of the Kashmir issue; that is, the mediation by the United States or a role in
the resolution of that problem. But as we have been reading the official articulation of the policy of the government of the United States on Kashmir, it is considered to be a disputed territory, which is to be resolved -- the issue is to be resolved in accordance with the aspiration of the Kashmiri people. Do you agree to that?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think what we'd like to at is where we are today. We're in 2001 (sic). I'm sorry, 2002. (Laughter.) Shows you what a fog I have. (Laughs.) We're in 2002. We are trying first and foremost to
prevent a war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. We have to get past that, and we can look at other things later.
Q Claire Suarez (sp) from Reuters. Before President Musharraf left Pakistan, he said one of his top priorities is going to be military sales. Where does that rank on the list of priorities you gave at the beginning? And how far are you likely to go in rewarding Musharraf for his help in the terror campaign on that issue?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think that we all know that once sanctions were removed, that enabled the United States to have a range of military sales to Pakistan, depending on licensing agreements. However, MTCR sanctions are still on the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, partial sanctions. Those sanctions were waived to allow us to support Pakistani -- to provide assistance to the Pakistani military in response to their support for our troops involved in Operation Enduring Freedom. And that's where we are.
Q I'm -- (inaudible) -- of the Sankei Shimbun Japanese daily. You say that you'd like to see both sides to pull out from the borders, especially special strike forces. Did they or did they not pull out their forces, some of their forces in the recent weeks? If not, do you see any sign that they are doing so, especially on Indian side in the future?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think, while we would like them to do that, each side has responsible for the defense of their country. They have to make a decision when they are confident in their own security in that they can pull
back. We would like them to pull back because there's a much less of a chance for an accident or a mistake or a misinterpretation when you're both so close to each other. And that's what we would like to see from both of them.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Not to the best of my knowledge. Yes, sir.
Q Thanks. Just to follow up on the military question, are you seeking access into the future to Pakistani bases in support of your campaign against terrorism in South Asia?
And on the democracy question, is there -- although the policy of the United States in, you know, the best of possible worlds is that there should be democracy in Pakistan, is there any sense in which your short-term goals -- for instance, requiring Musharraf to crack down on militants -- that you would actually prefer the current situation to continue so as not to weaken his position? I mean, previous democratic administrations in Pakistan have been a lot less stable than Musharraf's and possibly General Zia's.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: We continue to believe that democracy is the best form of government. The Pakistani people have had several chances to exercise their rights. Democracy is ugly, it takes time to develop, it's not
always pretty or efficient, but we believe this is the best way to go, and we're pleased that President Musharraf agrees. We think most of the Pakistani people believe this is the way to go.
As to your question about bases, with agreement of the Pakistani government, we're using bases now to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Once that commitment is over, we will -- as the president has said -- we will leave. We think Pakistan is capable of defending itself.
MODERATOR: Time for a couple more questions. Sir?
Q K.P. Nayir (ph) from the Telegraph. I have two questions. The United Arab Emirates has deported an Indian national who is ostensibly holding a Pakistani passport to India. And he, according to the Indians, has confessed
to being the mastermind behind the shooting in front of the American center in Calcutta a couple of weeks back. What have been the contacts between the administration and the United Arab Emirates government on this? And have the Indians been sharing information on the case with the administration?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I have no knowledge of contacts between the U.S. and the UAE on this case. I will say we were shocked at that attack on our consulate which resulted in Indian deaths. It was terrible. As a Foreign Service officer who has lost friends and relatives in these type of things, this appalls me. However, we had excellent cooperation with the Indian a government from the beginning. Our diplomatic security agents worked closely with the Indian government. They were not involved in any interrogations or anything like that, but the India government briefed us several times. You know, we have a legal attache who's stationed in Delhi, who went to Calcutta and met with the IG of police. So we're pleased that this person was arrested. We'll wait for the trial and see if he's convicted and what happens after that.
Q My second question is, when President Bush discusses with General Musharraf the situation -- the border situation with India tomorrow, will the tenor of the conversation be one of concern or of optimism, because Secretary Powell, when he appeared on Capitol Hill last week, he was more optimistic than it any time since the standoff started. And my specific question is what exactly, what specifically is this optimism based on?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: The optimism is based on the fact that we believe that war is unthinkable, that both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee are statesmen who want to avoid war, who understand that their countries need to be stable and at peace if they're going to develop economically. And that's what they want to do.
MODERATOR: Sir, the last question
Q (Inaudible) -- Herald. What is the extent of U.S. help and support in securing nuclear weapons of Pakistan? You must have seen several reports have appeared, including one in the New Yorker.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I don't have much time to read -- (laughs) -- so that's -- I haven't seen that.
Q Are you anxious about that? Is it in as safe and secure hands as has been said by some analysts?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I can't comment on something that I haven't read. I don't know what analysts you're talking about. We are pleased that there have been no nuclear tests since 1998, and we expect that there will be no more nuclear tests from either side. Thank you.
Copyright (c)2002 by Federal News Service, Inc., 620 National Press Building, Washington, DC 20045 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please email Jack Graeme at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (202)824-0520.