THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Islamabad, Pakistan) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 25, 2000
BACKGROUND PRESS BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ON THE PRESIDENT'S MEETINGS IN PAKISTAN Islamabad, Pakistan
2:55 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me go through each of the meetings in a little bit more detail then. First of all, the meeting with President Tarar lasted, as Joe said, about 15 minutes. The President indicated his great happiness. President Tarar expressed his great happiness at having President Clinton here and how much the Pakistani people were eager to have him here.
President Clinton underscored his own interest in coming here. He noted the long history of friendly cooperation between the United States and Pakistan that actually goes back to the birth of Pakistan in the 1940s; our cooperation together during the Cold War; our work together in Afghanistan in dealing with Soviet invasion; our work over the years in fighting terrorism and the cooperation we've had on several occasions in that.
The meeting then broke and the President went over to the meeting with the Chief Executive. This meeting had about five or six on each side. On the American side it was the President, Sandy Berger, Secretary Albright, John Podesta, Ambassador Milam, an NSC notetaker. And on the Pakistani side, the Foreign Minister, the Foreign Secretary and some of the Chief Executive's chief aides were there.
As we've already indicated, this was a very good conversation, very serious, very frank, I think a very thorough conversation and covered all of the issues which are on both sides' agenda.
The President began by explaining why he was here -- that he came here because the United States does have a long history of friendship with Pakistan, of working with the Pakistani people; but secondly, because he's also worried about the direction Pakistan is moving in, and that there are trends here which disturb the United States and disturb the President in particular, and that he wanted to have the chance to come here and be honest and speak as an old friend of this country and listen to what they had to say.
The discussion began with a discussion about democracy. The President reiterated our support for an orderly restoration of democratic civilian rule. He urged the Chief Executive to develop a timetable and a road map for getting back to national-level civilian rule. He noted that just two days ago the Chief Executive had laid out plans for local and district elections, and that, while these are a step, what is needed is a game plan that will restore democracy at the top.
The President noted that democracies are growing in number throughout the developing world, and that Pakistan finds itself in an unusual position of working against the trends in the developing world today by having gone away from a democratic system.
There was an extended discussion on nonproliferation issues. The President laid out, as he did in New Delhi, our views that nuclear testing had not made Pakistan safer, did not enhance its deterrent capability, had not made the Pakistani people safer, and that, in fact, embarking upon a nuclear arms race was an expensive way to squander the country's wealth.
He urged early signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, cutoff in fissile material production, no export of technologies to other countries, firm export controls, and also restraint in the development and deployment of new systems.
Let me say in this regard that General Musharraf gave the President a very firm assurance that Pakistan would not be the source of the export of any dangerous technologies or weapons of mass destruction.
The discussion also covered terrorism. The President made clear, as he had in New Delhi, our very strong opposition to terrorism throughout the region, and in particular, encouraged General Musharraf to use the influence that Pakistan has with the Taliban to see that Usama bin Laden is brought to justice as soon as possible.
Regarding the Taliban in general, the President also raised our human rights concerns vis-a-vis the Taliban, particularly its treatment of women and minorities, and pressed the General, again, to do what he could with Pakistan's influence to assist in that area.
There was, not surprisingly, an extensive discussion of Pakistani relations with India and the Kashmir issue. As he did in New Delhi, the President made clear our view that there is no role for United States mediation in this issue, and that the road forward requires restraint, respect for the line of control, efforts to ensure an end to the violence, and a return to dialogue as soon as possible. The President underscored again the same message that he had in New Delhi, that there is no military solution to the Kashmir issue.
The President also discussed the trial of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and expressed continued interest in fair and transparent process, and underscored our view that the Prime Minister should not be executed.
The President raised a particular issue of terrorism, which is the issue of a missing American, Don Hutchins, who was kidnapped in Kashmir in 1995, and which his widow, Jane Shelley, has asked the government of Pakistan for any assistance it can provide in providing information that would lead to a determination of his fate. General Musharraf indicated that he would do what he could in this area.
In the larger meeting, there was a discussion of Pakistan's economic policies. General Musharraf briefed the President on the efforts he is trying to do to revive the Pakistani economy and to lift Pakistani people out of poverty. The President expressed support for economic reforms aimed at privatization, and he noted that the team that the Pakistani Prime Minister has put together to deal with economic issues is a very strong team.
General Musharraf then talked about his efforts to deweaponize Pakistani society and to outlaw the display of weapons. And he also spoke about his efforts to increase women's rights in Pakistan and to bring more women into positions of power in government and elsewhere.
As we indicated earlier, I think it was a serious discussion. It was frank. There was a great deal of engagement and give-and-take between the two leaders. There were no particular surprises. But I think the principal objective that we had developed for coming here, which was keeping open our lines of communication to the nation of Pakistan and to the leadership of Pakistan, we're well on the way to having accomplished.
Q Did the Chief Executive have any response to the appeal of democracy -- to the request that a timetable --
Q What was the question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He asked what was General Musharraf's response on the question of democracy. General Musharraf reiterated positions which we have heard previously, which is that in his judgment Pakistan's democracy before October was a deeply flawed one, and that he needed to set the stage for restoration of democracy by working from the ground up. He did not offer a timeline or an extended road map for the restoration of democracy.
Q Did he offer anything on terrorism, specifically to shut down any of the militant groups here like -- Mujahadeen? Anything specific on terrorism?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He did indicate that he would make an effort to work with the Taliban leadership to bring Usama bin Laden to justice, or to find a resolution of the Usama bin Laden issue. You may be aware that he has earlier indicated a willingness to go to Kanduhar to meet with Mullah Omar. And he indicated he will continue his efforts to press in that area. But he did not make any commitments with regard to HUM.
Q What was the General's response to the President's position on Kashmir --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that General Musharraf and the Pakistani government can speak better for themselves on their position. You know what their position is, and I --
Q What did he say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He didn't break any new ground in his position on that issue.
Q Did he secure any commitments from the General to reduce the level of violence along the line of control, or to reduce the infiltration -- India and Kashmir?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President certainly raised the issue of Pakistan using its influence to help build confidence on both sides of the line of control. But we heard no new assurances from the General.
Q On the democracy issue, did the General raise at all the idea that if the U.S. and the world don't deal with the likes of him, they might well be dealing with a radical fundamentalist regime here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he did not make that point. He did not make that argument.
Q -- did this point come up in the discussion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not in exactly those terms, but the President was clear his concern about violence in Kashmir, and using every effort in order to diminish it and bring about an end to it.
Q Is there any pressure on the President to mitigate against the impression that his visit here is an endorsement of the military dictatorship? And, is that going to be -- is there pressure on his message this afternoon to the people? And was there any sort of quid pro quo about his visit and allowing him to air this broadcast?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't describe it as a quid pro quo. We made clear from the beginning of our discussions with them that the President would like to have that opportunity to speak to the Pakistani people. And I don't believe the Pakistani authorities have quarreled with that request.
On your other question, let me be very clear -- this is not an endorsement of a military government. This is not a state visit. I think we have made clear that business as usual between the United States and Pakistan is not possible until there is a restoration of normal civilian democratic rule. And I think if you look at the way this trip has been structured, I think we've made it very clear that this was a businesslike, straightforward meeting in order to maintain a communications channel.
Q -- the President asked Musharraf for respect of the line of control, what was Musharraf's response? And how did he reply --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He did not use those words. Again, I think the Pakistanis are going to have every opportunity to describe their position, and I don't think it's my place to do it for them. I would only say that the President made very clear, as he had in New Delhi, our view, the so-called four Rs: restraint, respect for the line of control, reduction -- renunciation of violence, and a renewal of the dialogue. We did not get assurances from Pakistan of a change of their policy vis-a-vis infiltration or other things.
Q I mean, if they aren't going -- four Rs, what did the President say when he --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the President was very eloquent in talking about the future, and asking -- in fact, he did this also in New Delhi -- asking the leadership, but particularly here, to look 10, 20 years out: Where do they want their countries to be? What do they want to have spent their nations' wealth on over the next 10 or 20 years -- weapons of mass destruction, a conflict in Kashmir? Those are alternatives which are designed, wittingly or unwittingly, to squander the tremendous potential and opportunity that the people of South Asia have for a better future.
And he appealed, both here and in New Delhi -- and you heard him in the speech to the Lok Sabha -- to look to a different kind of a future, a future in which the economic potential of both these countries and this entire subcontinent is realized.
Q -- both here and in New Delhi, how would you characterize the nuclear arms competition between the two countries? Is it fair or accurate to characterize this as a "race"? Or is it something less than that? How does the U.S. see that now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think we made very clear our deep concern about the development of nuclear weapons systems and missile systems in South Asia. And we have made very clear that we think that that process needs to be fire-breaked now, that there needs to be agreement on no more testing, no more production on fissile material, restraint on the development and deployment of new weapons, and that the best way to ensure that there doesn't become a full-scale nuclear arms race is by taking those firebreaks now.
Q Did he have assurances of that, did he have assurance of those firebreaks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. I was very clear we do not have assurances, and that is something that is a work in progress and we will still have to work on.
Q What was General Musharraf's reaction -- (inaudible) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Starting from the back and going forward, our understanding is that that limitation on public activities is limited only for the duration of our visit, as a security measure. And we certainly hope that that will be the case.
Regarding the massacre of the Sikhs, you know our position. The General did not specifically comment on it. And the one in the middle -- the General repeated a position which I think he stated publicly, that he is not a vindictive or vengeful man, but that this issue is up to the courts in order to decide.
Q -- (inaudible.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that's a question better left to them to answer.
Q You made a point of singling out Musharraf's reaction to one of the agenda items on export control -- he reacted very positively. Can you tell us, on any of the other items was there a point when he bristled or reacted negatively to anything that Mr. Clinton --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't think this was -- there were not obviously body movements showing bristling or reactions -- this was a civil, serious, and I think extremely frank and honest conversation.
Q So he agreed with everything the President said?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I didn't say he agreed with it. I think they had a civil and frank conversation. There were many areas where they disagreed. I think I made that clear. But nobody stormed out in protest.
Q Beyond maintaining a line of communication, is there any reason now to be more optimistic than yesterday about the situation in this country with this leader?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we've made -- certainly made every effort to make our position clear at the highest level in this country. And shortly the President will have an opportunity to make it clear to the people of Pakistan.
Q -- is this a direct quote where you said the President warned him that embarking on a nuclear arms race was an expensive way to squander the country's wealth? Were those the President's words or a paraphrase?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Those were paraphrased.
Q And on the economic talk that followed, was there something specifically that Musharraf was asking -- debt relief or some specific item on the table they were looking for?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it was primarily a briefing by the Chief Executive of his policies.
Q Was there anything on how the United States might be helpful in that regard?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As you know, under the sanctions imposed first on proliferation issues and then in reaction to the events of October, there's very little room for U.S. economic or other kinds of assistance for Pakistan.
Q -- did you get any clarity on any of these issues as a result of the discussions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Regarding economic issues?
Q Well, I'm talking across the gamut.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think I've laid out the areas where I thought we heard some response. But I think most areas, this was honest, straight-forward. We didn't expect to come here and in an hour persuade the leadership here of the wisdom of all of our positions. But I think we made of where we are on this.
Q Are you leaving the region with any hope of a Musharraf-Vajpayee meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have no expectation or no reason to believe that's around --
Q Beyond the President's reiteration of the four Rs, did he have any response to General Musharraf's very different perspective on Kashmir --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think our policy and our views on Kashmir don't change when we travel from New Delhi to Islamabad. I think we have a position which is clear and which the President said in New Delhi, he was going to say the same thing when he came here, and that's what he did.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there was -- I'll go back to what Joe said -- it was a very straightforward, serious, honest discussion in which we made very clear our positions. And we kept open an important line of communication to the leadership of a very important country in this part of the world.
Q Will there be future meetings?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have no plans for future meetings, but I that doesn't mean I rule out the possibility of future meetings.
Q Do you expect any movement at all by Musharraf on CTBT? And did he at all raise the fact that the United States did not ratify it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Actually, the President raised the last point, as he has -- on every occasion that I've heard him raise CTBT in the last several months, and as he said in New Delhi, we hope the democratic system and the United States will produce ratification of the CTBT.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't characterize the comment.
Q Back home the President is a supporter of the death penalty. Can you explain why the White House believes that it would be inappropriate for Musharraf to take --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think our position here is based upon a reading of the unfortunate history of this country, and the execution of a Prime Minister in the past was not a step forward towards producing a long-term democratic path in this country.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:15 P.M. (L)