- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

New chapter with India

President Clinton's visit to India will open a "new chapter" in relations with the United States that is "long overdue," U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Celeste said yesterday.
Mr. Celeste, speaking to reporters in New Delhi, said the visit in two weeks will concentrate on a broad range of issues that go beyond India-Pakistan relations and the dispute in Kashmir.
"It would be a mistake to think that our relationship rests entirely on progress in Indo-Pakistan relations," he said.
He added that a decision is "imminent" on whether Mr. Clinton will include Pakistan on his visit. Pakistan was dropped from the itinerary after the military coup in October.
In Pakistan, military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he remains hopeful of a Clinton visit, according to Pakistani newspapers.
Mr. Clinton is due to arrive in India on March 19 and then fly to Bangladesh for a one-day visit. He will officially begin his Indian visit on March 21 and leave on March 25.
He is due to visit Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. He will also travel to Jaipur, Hyderabad and Bombay, Mr. Celeste said.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, other White House officials and a congressional delegation will accompany Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Celeste, noting Mr. Clinton's visit will be the first by an American president in more than 20 years, called the trip "frankly long overdue."
In discussions with Indian leaders, Mr. Clinton will address "how we envision the managing and sustaining of a high-level engagement between the two nations," Mr. Celeste said.
Although the United States remains concerned about tensions between India and Pakistan, Mr. Clinton intends to "broaden our engagement and underscore the range of interests we have in common" with India, such as trade, investment, information technology, science, the environment and health programs, Mr. Celeste said.
"As we do that, we can help create space for constructive activity in other areas over time," he added.
"I am convinced [Mr. Clinton] will do everything he can to begin the process of writing a new chapter in the history of relations between the United States and India," Mr. Celeste said.
Asked to comment on mounting media speculation that India and Pakistan are creeping toward another conflict after the Clinton visit, Mr. Celeste said:
"I don't want to downplay the seriousness of hostility right now, the climate of hostility between these two countries. But I don't think the visit is a timeout for them to move down the road to a military engagement."
Mr. Clinton offered to help in the dispute over Kashmir, which has twice brought India and Pakistan to war, but India rejects any outside mediation.
"If there is a way the president can be helpful at any time, he will. But he understands the limitations," Mr. Celeste said.

Middle East mission

U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross is returning to the region this week to try to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Ross was in the Middle East last week, trying to break a deadlock in negotiations. The two sides are trying to reach a comprehensive settlement by September.
"Within the next day, roughly, he will be returning to the region," State Department spokesman James Foley said yesterday.
Mr. Ross will avoid involvement in Israeli-Syrian negotiations on the future of the Golan Heights, Mr. Foley said.

St. Patrick's visitors

St. Patrick's Day is again drawing visitors from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern left Dublin yesterday on a 12-day trip that will take him first to Australia and then to Washington on March 15.
Mr. Ahern is scheduled to meet President Clinton to discuss the stalled Northern Irish peace process and other issues.
David Trimble, leader of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party, is also due in town. He will speak at the National Press Club on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.

Panama, not Peru

Arthur Davis was U.S. ambassador to Panama, not Peru, as Embassy Row incorrectly reported yesterday.

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