- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

Money for Pakistan

The United States yesterday rewarded Pakistan for its support of the war in Afghanistan when the U.S. ambassador signed an agreement to provide $600 million in aid.

Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin said the aid is the first installment of a billion-dollar package pledged to Pakistan during President Pervez Musharraf's weekend visit to the United States.

Miss Chamberlin and Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz signed an agreement to release the aid, saying the money would help ease the strain on the Pakistani economy from the Afghan war.

"The terrorist attacks put an additional strain on the world economy," she told reporters at the signing ceremony in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

"Nowhere has that been more evident than on Pakistan, which prior to that event had put into place a strong economic-reform and poverty-alleviation program."

Miss Chamberlin said the aid also is a sign of renewed strength in U.S.-Pakistani relations.

"It is a mark of the dramatically changed relationship we now enjoy," she said. "Our aid is partly in recognition of Pakistan's support for the campaign against terrorism. This is not a one-shot package but represents a long-term relationship with Pakistan."

American caucus

Two years ago, Narayan Keshavan began a behind-the-scenes campaign to encourage members of the Indian Parliament to form an America caucus along the lines of the influential India caucus in the U.S. Congress.

Just before the Washington visit of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, lawmakers in New Delhi last week announced the opening of the Indo-American Parliamentary Forum.

Mr. Keshavan, an Indian American who served as director of the Congressional Caucus on India, said the new Indian parliamentary group would help improve relations with the United States by promoting contacts between elected officials of both countries.

"Now U.S.-Indian relations will receive a definitive boost because there will be effective coordination between the elected and accountable members of the legislatures of the world's two largest democracies," Mr. Keshavan told Embassy Row.

"Thus far, the destiny of U.S.-India relations was primarily controlled by unelected bureaucrats, especially pinstripes, from both nations.

"Now elected politicians from both nations will get to have a greater say, making the job of the White House and the prime minister's office a little bit easier."

Mr. Keshavan, now director of the Indian-American Republican Council, noted that the two caucuses were of comparable size, with 125 members of Congress and 120 Indian legislators.

In New Delhi, Rajiv Shukla, a member of Parliament, said the new Indian caucus will serve as a "bridge" and "consolidate relations" with the United States.

"The forum will also focus on explosive issues such as terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, drug trafficking and human rights," he said.

Indonesia not militant

Indonesian radicals who protested outside the U.S. Embassy against the war in Afghanistan represent only a tiny portion of the citizens in the world's most populous Muslim state, the U.S. ambassador to that country said yesterday.

"I don't think the broad, mainstream Islam in Indonesia is in danger of going the way of the radicalized current," Ambassador Ralph Boyce told reporters over lunch in the capital, Jakarta.

Last month, after the bombing of terrorist targets began inside Afghanistan, protesters held frequent demonstrations outside the embassy.

"My assessment is that the situation has now calmed down a bit," Mr. Boyce said.

He cautioned that anti-American protests could resume during Ramadan if the bombing campaign in Afghanistan continued.

Mr. Boyce also said he had an "open, direct and often blunt" meeting earlier yesterday with 40 representatives of 17 Iocal Islamic groups, but he would not disclose details of the conversations.

Envoy to Philippines

President Bush has selected a career diplomat to serve as ambassador to the Philippines and the island republic of Palau.

His nominee, Francis Joseph Ricciardone, is now a senior adviser in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

He has served as deputy chief of mission in Turkey from 1995 to 1999 and in Jordan from 1991 to 1993.

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