- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, on the eve of President Clinton's visit to South Asia, yesterday warned Pakistan to "respect" the cease-fire line in Kashmir and halt terrorism against India.

"Nations must not attempt to change borders or zones of occupation through armed force … now that they have exploded nuclear devices," Mrs. Albright said in a luncheon address to the Asia Society.

"Tangible steps must be taken to respect the Line of Control," she added, referring to the unofficial border dividing Kashmir into Indian- and Pakistani-held sectors.

Mrs. Albright's statements yesterday marked a shift toward India and away from decades of U.S. neutrality in the conflict, which sparked two India-Pakistan wars and erupted into an active insurgency about 10 years ago.

A senior U.S. official said the remarks were aimed at Pakistan, which Mr. Clinton will visit briefly during his trip Monday through March 25.

"Pakistan wants to change the border not India," said the senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There have been indications of increased Indian activity along the Line of Control, so this is a warning for both sides," said the official. "But it is Pakistan rather than India that is seeking adjustments."

Another senior administration official, however, said that "this is not a tilt towards Pakistan."

"This is a recognition that we have many more opportunities with India and many more concerns with Pakistan. This is not a tilt," the second official said.

The White House yesterday rejected implications raised by a New York Times report that Mr. Clinton decided to visit Pakistan in part because first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton received $50,000 for her New York Senate race from a Pakistani-American political group at a Feb. 22 fund-raiser.

"The decision was made by the president in consultation with his foreign policy team based on our interest in the subcontinent, our interest in that part of the world, without regard to anyone's politics, including the first lady's," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said yesterday.

India has perhaps 500,000 troops in its portion of Kashmir. They are pinned down fighting an insurgency by militants many trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan who cross the Line of Control with Pakistani permission and encouragement.

Pakistan's chief executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power last October, has called publicly for continuing the armed struggle to oust India from Kashmir.

"This is a recognition that things have reached the stage where if the two sides are to move away from a confrontation, there have to be tangible steps," said the senior U.S. official. "This is an evolution."

"Material support to forces bearing arms is not for states that have nuclear weapons capability," said the official.

The United States would be willing to help verify any agreement reached by the two nations to scale back their military confrontation, said the U.S. official.

However, he noted that U.S. spy satellites and other electronic observation assets may prove unable to track the movements of guerrillas or ground troops.

In her address, Mrs. Albright also called on Pakistan to end terrorism aimed at India, which accuses its neighbor of fomenting violence in Kashmir and other parts of the world's most populous democracy.

"We want to see steps to address the effects of terror on Pakistan's neighbors, notably India," she said.

Mrs. Albright firmly rejected Gen. Musharraf's contention to the Pakistani press that Mr. Clinton's visit was an endorsement of his military government.

"I want to leave no room for doubt," said Mrs. Albright. "In no way is this a decision to endorse the military coup led by Gen. Musharraf. And no one should interpret it as such."

At the top of Mr. Clinton's agenda in Pakistan will be "avoiding the threat of conflict in South Asia," followed by restoring democracy, fighting terrorism and preventing proliferation, she said.

While Pakistan clearly hopes Mr. Clinton will intervene in the Kashmir dispute, Mrs. Albright stuck to the Indian position barring outsiders from the issue: "The president is not going to mediate the Kashmir dispute … unless both sides ask."

In her lengthy remarks, Mrs. Albright highlighted the new relationship with India a decade after the end of the Cold War, during which India was a leader of the anti-Western nonaligned bloc of Third World nations.

"Today, however, this mind-set of mutual distrust is beginning to change… . There was always something unnatural and regrettable about the estrangement of our two democracies," she said.

She noted that India's economy quietly boomed in the 1990s, especially a software industry that attracted such U.S. high-tech giants as Apple, Texas Instruments, Oracle and Microsoft. But she noted that India's economic reforms still must improve transportation and reduce licensing red tape.

On India's nuclear weapons program, Mrs. Albright said, "We recognize fully that only the Indian government has the sovereign right to make decisions about what is necessary for the defense of India and its interests. But we do regard proliferation anywhere as our number one security concern."

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