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October 20, 1999
US denies it is 'soft' towards Musharraf
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl F Inderfurth has justified the Bill Clinton administration's policy of engagement with Pakistan's military regime, insisting that the United States wants General Pervez Musharraf ''to move in the right direction.''
''How could we do that if we walk away from Pakistan?'' he asked while replying to questions at a meeting of the Indian American Forum for Political Education, a grouping of non-resident Indians in Washington yesterday.
Earlier in the day, acting state department spokesman James Foley said, ''We have important areas on which we need to work with Pakistan.'' Among them are promoting talks with India and trying to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
He said on several occasions, both the US and India had said that a stable, democratic and prosperous Pakistan was in the interest of the two countries. ''Pakistan now is neither stable, prosperous nor democratic,'' Inderfurth said.
The assistant secretary disagreed with the view that the US was ''soft'' towards the coup and said that his country had last week cut off economic and military aid to Pakistan in protest against the toppling of the duly-elected Nawaz Sharief government.
Inderfurth welcomed General Musharraf's announcement that Pakistan would withdraw from Kashmir to international borders. However, the US official suggested that the army might want to withdraw further to the Line of Control that was the boundary before Pakistan's incursions into Kargil.
On US relations with India, Inderfurth said the recently elected government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee represented a ''continuity'' that could lead to improvements in ''economic reform, rural development, and national security'' for India.
Inderfurth said the dialogue between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh on security and non-proliferation issues would be resumed soon.
He noted that in two weeks, pending Congressional passage and President Clinton's signature, economic sanctions that were imposed on India and Pakistan as a result of their testing of nuclear devices could be lifted.
He also announced that Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson will visit New Delhi and Varanasi next week to discuss energy and environmental issues, marking the first high-level contact between the US and India since the Vajpayee government was sworn in on October 13.
Inderfurth expressed the hope that greater ''liberalisation'' of India's economy would improve the US-India economic relationship, which he predicted could launch a ''second generation of reform'' in the sub-continent.
He also said that an economic package that would encourage more trade between the two countries would be ready next month.
Inderfurth said he would like to see India open up its tele- communications and insurance to investment.
India's ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra told the conference that seven multi-million dollar power projects were approved last month and India is opening up its oil and power resources for exploration.
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