TITLE=PAK / CLINTON VISIT
INTRO: Pakistan is welcoming President Clinton's
decision to make a brief stop in the country during
his visit to South Asia, later this month. As V-O-A's
Scott Anger reports from Islamabad, observers and
officials believe the visit will help reduce
Pakistan's rising tensions with India over the
disputed Kashmir region.
TEXT: As the decades-old dispute between India and
Pakistan over Kashmir continues to threaten peace and
stability on the sub-continent, many in Pakistan say
they hope President Clinton's visit will help re-start
dialogue between the two neighbors.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tariq Altaf says
Mr. Clinton's visit will give the president the
opportunity to see the volatile situation, first-hand.
Kashmir is considered the most dangerous nuclear flash
point in the world today. The peace and security in
the South Asian region is a fragile and tension-filled
situation here. He (Clinton) will have the
opportunity of holding consultations with Pakistani
leaders, getting their perspectives and getting
Pakistan's point of view on the security situation, on
relations with India on how peace can be promoted in
The Himalayan region of Kashmir lies at the heart of
the rivalry between Pakistan and India. The region
was divided between the two nations after British rule
in South Asia ended in 1947. India controls two-
thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan the rest.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir
and came close to a third, when the uneasy neighbors
waged a bloody border battle that threatened to erupt
into all-out war last year.
Both countries have tested nuclear devices and
declared themselves nuclear powers.
Retired Pakistan army general-turned-analyst Talat
Masood says there is a growing fear that a low-
intensity conflict between the two countries could
explode into a nuclear war. Mr. Masood says it is
very important that the two sides re-start dialogue.
He says, for that to happen, they will need outside
It is not possible for the two countries -- by
themselves -- to really resolve this conflict. It
needs international intervention. It needs mediation.
No country is better placed than the United States and
President Clinton, at this point in time, to bring
home to these two countries (Pakistan and India) the
importance of getting back to dialogue.
High on President Clinton's agenda -- in addition to
regional peace and nuclear non-proliferation -- is
Washington's call for the return of democracy to
The military ousted elected Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif in a bloodless coup last October. The military
government has accused Mr. Sharif's government of
economic mismanagement, corruption and destroying
state institutions. The former prime minister is on
trial, charged with hijacking, attempted murder and
Washington imposed sanctions against Pakistan after
the coup and has pushed the military leader, General
Pervez Musharraf, to restore democracy as soon as
Observers say Mr. Clinton's visit will give a boost to
relations between Pakistan and the United States. But
Mr. Masood says he does not see any substantial
benefits to Pakistan.
In the immediate term, I would not expect that his
(President Clinton's) visit would have any immediate,
tangible results in the form of any great benefits
either in the economic or political field. It's more
of a goodwill gesture and it will enhance Pakistan's
President Clinton will travel to India and Bangladesh
during the week of March 20th. The White House has not
given a date for the Pakistan visit -- which will be
the first by an American president since Richard Nixon
stopped in the country in 1969. (SIGNED)
08-Mar-2000 06:18 AM EDT (08-Mar-2000 1118 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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