Is South Asia Safer with Nukes?
Bill Clinton is president of the United States.
At the time of his visit to South Asia in March, he wrote an article outlining
his aims exclusively for NPQs weekly column with the Los Angeles
Times Syndicate, Global Viewpoint. An excerpt below.
Aboard air force oneAmerica has learned in recent years, especially
from Russias troubles and Japans economic difficulties, that
it is the weakness of great nations, not their strength, that threatens
our vision for the future. We are safer when other great nations are at
peace with their neighbors and with themselves. We do better when other
countries rise from poverty to become our partners in trade and investment.
Our freedom is more secure when others have a chance to shape their destiny.
In its 52 years since independence, India has brought about a remarkable
political, social and economic transformation. With 17 officially recognized
languages and 22,000 dialects, it is a place of extraordinary diversity,
that is teaching the world how to live with difference. Hundreds of millions
of Indians choose their leaders in free elections and determine their
affairs through local governing councils. Indias economy is one
of the 10 fastest growing in the world, its thriving high-technology sector
one of the brightest spots in the new global economy, expanding 25-fold
in the past decade. There now are more television channels available in
Mumbai than in most US cities. Meanwhile, Indians are pioneering innovative
new sources of clean energy and new ways to combat epidemics of disease.
The 1998 nuclear tests by India and then Pakistan shook the world, intensifying
global worries about the spread and potential use of nuclear weapons.
Only India and Pakistan can decide how to protect their security. As they
do, I hope they will ask themselves: Are they safer today than before
they tested nuclear weapons? Will they benefit from expanding their nuclear
and missile capabilities, if that spurs their neighbors to do the same?
Can they achieve their goals for economic development while making a sustained
investment in both nuclear and conventional military forces? Will they
be better off at the end of what could be a long, unpredictable and expensive
I am determined that the United States ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty, because it will strengthen our national security. India and Pakistan
should sign the treaty, as they have committed to do, for the same reason.
As the United States and Russia move toward deeper cuts in our nuclear
arsenals, South Asia should not be headed in the opposite direction. Narrowing
our differences on nonproliferation is important to realizing the full
potential of our relationships.
I also believe that India and Pakistan will not achieve real security
until they resume dialogue to resolve their tensions. I am not going to
mediate the dispute between India and Pakistan. America cannot play that
role unless both sides want it. But I urge restraint, respect for the
Line of Control in Kashmir, and renewed lines of communication. Both India
and Pakistan have legitimate security concerns. But neither can achieve
its aims in an escalating contest of inflicting and absorbing pain.
I spoke to General Pervez Musharraf and to the Pakistani people about
the steps we believe are important to building a hopeful future for Pakistan:
an early return to democracy, a crackdown on terrorist groups, restraint
on nuclear and missile programs and a real effort to create the conditions
for dialogue with India. If Pakistan takes these steps, we can get back
on the path of partnership.
I can imagine a future for South Asia where the people of each nation
choose their own democratic destinies, where tolerance is embraced, the
threat of regional war is a thing of the past, and countries cooperate
for better education and health and prosperity. The region is not there
yet. But I know most South Asians share this vision.
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