Since September 11, South Asia is more central to United States foreign policy than ever before, and while political and economic opportunities in the region are great, challenges remain greater still. Security and development in Afghanistan, stability and democracy in Pakistan, and rising religious tensions in India are among the problems Washington must confront. Regional weapons proliferation and India-Pakistan hostilities over Kashmir further complicate the South Asian picture.Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca will join AEI for the first event in the new Foreign Policy Briefing Series. Assistant Secretary Rocca will discuss her recent trip to the region and the challenges that face the United States.
|12:30||Introduction:||Danielle Pletka, AEI|
|Remarks:||Christina Rocca, Department of State|
Challenges in South Asia
At a foreign policy briefing on October 10, 2002, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca addressed the successes and continued concerns of United States policy in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. She emphasized the need to cultivate good relations between India and Pakistan, address reconstruction in Afghanistan, and promote democracy throughout the subcontinent.
South Asia is an area of vital concern for U.S. policy. While the United States has many concerns in the region, such as antidemocratic trends, weapons proliferation, terrorism, and more, some positive developments have gone unheralded.
Afghanistan is beginning to recover after twenty years of sustained warfare. Despite criticism, America and its partners in the international community have made considerable progress toward reconstruction. The removal of the Taliban from power has greatly increased regional stability and security. Consolidating security by continuing to train military units and police, strengthening political stability by supporting the transitional government, and continuing to follow the roadmap laid out in Bonn are key issues that still need to be addressed. Accelerating reconstruction and development by assuring that foreign donors meet their pledges and by gradually reducing dependence on foreign donors is also important, as are meeting humanitarian needs and coordinating the repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees. Promoting tolerance and respect for human rights, particularly where women are concerned, must remain a priority.
U.S. relations with Pakistan have improved markedly during the campaign against terrorism, and President Pervez Musharraf has worked domestically to make Pakistan inhospitable to extremist and terrorist groups by freezing their financial assets and arresting their leaders. Currently, the United States is helping Pakistan strengthen its law enforcement capabilities, which will help contribute to political stability and adherence to the framework of justice detailed in the constitution. The elections on October 10 were the first step in transferring power to the national and regional assemblies, and we hope this signals a commitment to building credible democratic institutions. Economic and social reform programs are crucial to the future prosperity of the state, and will be facilitated by increasing economic ties to the United States.
India and the United States have begun to build a broad-based strategic relationship founded on mutual economic interests and democratic development, as well as military cooperation and intelligence sharing in an effort to eliminate terrorist groups. This relationship will foster a better bilateral dialogue in the future, particularly in business and commerce. Cooperation with the United States and investment in sectors including information technology, telecommunications, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals will enable India to address internal development issues and raise the standard of living for its people. India is also working to tighten export laws to prevent proliferation of weapons and related technology.
In Sri Lanka, the government and the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have held their first round of formal talks to resolve two decades of civil war and ethnic conflict. Both parties have demonstrated their desire to make these talks productive, and if this cooperative attitude continues, a peace settlement seems likely. Peace is a necessary step toward consolidating democracy in Sri Lanka.
Despite these signs of progress, however, there are still many challenges that face American policy in South Asia.
In Bangladesh, the government has transferred power peacefully three times through free and fair elections. Bangladesh has also managed to reduce its birthrate and improve education and social services, all of which are vital for economic improvement and the growth of democracy. However, rivalries between the state's two most powerful parties and endemic corruption continue to slow the reform process and can potentially destabilize the state. It is crucial for these parties to resolve their differences if progress is to continue.
A brutal Maoist insurgency in Nepal, which has left 5,000 dead, has delayed the elections that were scheduled for November. The United States will continue to support Nepal's constitutional monarchy and multiparty democratic system as the best means to resolve current security concerns.
Tensions between India and Pakistan remain the most vital concern for the United States in South Asia. These tensions have inhibited economic development and limited any real prospects for improving the quality of life of the people of both nations. In the spring of 2002, the conflict escalated dramatically, and only foreign intervention prevented the outbreak of war. The two nations' demonstrated nuclear abilities mandate American mediation in the region for some time to come. The United States will continue to work with both nations to find mutually acceptable ways of containing and ending the conflict, as well as addressing the problems of Kashmir, where elections were concluded on October 8. These elections could be an important step in achieving permanent peace, economic development, and respect for human rights.
AEI research assistant Molly McKew prepared this summary.