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Washington File

24 June 2003

Transcript: Commitment Seen to New Relationship between U.S., Pakistan

(U.S. support for Musharraf's "moderate, enlightened Islamic
democracy") (4040)
A senior Bush administration official described President Bush's June
24 meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as "historic,"
because, he said, the two leaders made a long-term commitment to build
a fundamentally new relationship between the two countries.
The official, speaking on background in Washington June 24, said the
Bush administration is seeking to provide a U.S.-designed $3 billion
aid program "to work with the Pakistanis to build the sort of
moderate, enlightened Islamic democracy that President Musharraf has
said is his vision."
"[W]e're going forward with a major bilateral assistance program that
is predicated on the assumption that in Pakistan we have a partner
that is moving against terrorism, moving against proliferation, and
committed towards moving towards democracy," said the official.
The official said Bush had told Musharraf that the United States wants
to see Pakistan and India peacefully address their problems together,
and added that "when and if the two sides think we have a role to
play, we will play that role that the two sides agree on."
The official also said that Musharraf had said he was encouraged by
Indian Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee's initial moves toward a
dialogue and that he had "tried to reciprocate those moves."
As for cross-border attacks by militant groups in Kashmir, the
official said "Musharraf needs to commit to and we think he has
committed to ... a hundred percent effort at trying to stop
cross-border incidents."
Along with the planned $3 billion assistance program, the United
States had committed $100 million over five years to help with
educational reforms, said the official. He said 1,200 madrassahs, or
religious schools, have now registered with the Pakistani government,
which not only gives them support but also requires them to agree to
curriculum guidelines.
He said the goal of curriculum reforms in the madrassahs iss to "get
them away from rote learning of the Koran plus hatred of America into
a study of the Koran but also study of math, science -- English, too
-- topics that the Pakistani children really want."
Following is a transcript of a press background briefing by a senior
administration official concerning U.S.-Pakistani relations:
(begin transcript)
Office of the Press Secretary
June 24, 2003
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
3:37 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, it's a pleasure to be
here. Were any of you up at Camp David this morning? No? So you're all
coming to this with fresh eyes and totally un-cynical perspective --
that's always positive.
QUESTION:  Oh, this is the non-cynical briefing?  (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Anyhow, I start out that way because
I'm going to tell you something that a lot of reporters are going to
look at me and say, what does he mean? I genuinely believe that
there's a good chance that 10 years from now we're going to look at
this meeting here, up at Camp David, and say, this was an historic
My explanation for that is that I saw two Presidents today make a
long-term commitment to build a relationship that is fundamentally
different from what we have seen in the past between Pakistan and the
United States.
We made -- President Bush made a commitment on the part of his
government to work with the Pakistanis to build the sort of moderate,
enlightened Islamic democracy that President Musharraf has said is his
vision. President Musharraf, for his part, guaranteed that he would
attempt to take the steps necessary to achieve that vision. And that,
of course, involves fighting vigorously against terrorism, ensuring
that there is no proliferation from Pakistan of dangerous
technologies, and ensuring that Pakistan moves toward a democracy.
They, of course, talked about all the other major regional issues.
They talked about India-Pakistan relations, they talked about Iran,
they talked about Iraq. But the key here I think was a commitment on
the part of both Presidents to trying to transform the bilateral
relationship between our two countries.
The atmosphere was very cordial, very friendly. They've met with each
other several times. I think they genuinely like and respect each
With that brief background, I would take any questions that you have.
Q: Can you outline in some detail what the $3 billion package is
designed to accomplish? And what you get for the money -- what's
anticipated you get, what kind of economic assistance would be
provided, what kind of defense assistance? And what contingencies may
be placed on the release of the funds?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have a fact sheet that we're going
to hand out, I think, on this. But to give you a brief overview, in
effect, what we're looking at is a $3 billion program, spread over
five years. The anticipation is that this would work out to $600
million a year, divided into both security and economic development,
roughly 50-50, about half in ESF and about half in FMF is what we're
currently thinking.
Now, I'm a little bit hedging here because of course this is a
multi-year program, Congress has to approve it, we have to make sure
that it makes sense. That is where -- I'm not using the term,
conditionality, but basically you've heard me raise major issues, as I
was talking earlier. And for Congress to appropriate the funds -- and,
indeed, for the government to seek the funds -- I think we're going to
have to be satisfied that Pakistan is indeed working vigorously with
us in the war against terrorism, is working vigorously to ensure that
there is no onward proliferation and is moving smartly towards
I'm not calling those conditions, but let's be realistic, three years
down the road, if things are going badly in those areas, it's not
going to happen. We're not going to request it, Congress won't
appropriate it. And that is a bargain that the Pakistanis are entering
into with their eyes wide open.
Q:  Typically, those kind of conditions have been considered --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, and you know -- I mean, any of
those would blow apart in assistance programs. So that's the
Q: What kind of aid, though? I mean, does the money buy defense
systems? Does it buy -- does it pay for U.S. government to help
promote trade by putting U.S. companies on the ground there? What do
you get for the money?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we haven't gotten into that
level of detail yet. We're going to enter into discussion with the
Paks on the content on both sides, security and economic. I do want to
point out that up in -- up at Camp David, the President announced that
we would not be providing new F-16s under this program. And I'll
explain that by pointing out that Pakistan has many, many defense
needs that need meeting. We're going to be working with them. I think
they're going to come in with requests, for example, for upgrades and
repairs to their current fleet of F-16s. We'll look at that and we'll
talk to them about it. But, frankly, there is just too much other
stuff that Pakistan needs right now for us to go into the business of
new F-16s.
Q: As far as India and Pakistan is concerned, what was the discussion
-- Kashmir issue came up or not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, the Kashmir issue did come up, at
a little bit of length. The Pakistani side, President Musharraf,
stressed strongly that he had moved against cross-border infiltration,
that he had made sure that there were no camps -- terrorist camps
inside Pakistani Kashmir. He did say that he badly wanted to see a
dialogue between Pakistan and India, that he was actually encouraged
by Vajpayee's initial moves, that he, himself, had tried to
reciprocate those moves. President Bush encouraged progress towards
dialogue, said that we, too, want to see Pakistan and India address
their problems together -- that if there is a role for us to play as
they address their problems together, we're willing to play that role,
but that it is fundamentally on the part of Pakistan and India to
start moving towards peace together.
Q: And just to follow up, as far as the economic aid of $3 billion is
concerned, was it a request by the Pakistani leader, or it came from
the U.S. side, this package?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The package is largely of U.S. design.
Now we're going to talk to -- let's be honest, the amount is largely
of U.S. design. Now we have to talk to the Pakistanis and flush it
out, exactly, what the content is.
Q: Did I understand you to say that the U.S. is willing to, as part of
the defense, part of this package, to help Pakistan upgrade its
existing F-16s? And, secondly, the President pointed in particular to
the educational reforms. A lot of that I believe is being done with
U.S. money. Can you give us sort of a snapshot of where that stands
and what they're trying to do?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. With respect to upgrading F-16s,
it's something we're perfectly willing to consider. As I said earlier,
the talks haven't really started yet, so we haven't flushed things out
in any detail. But there is a -- you know, an agreement on our side
that that's something that we'd be willing to consider if they pushed
us on it.
Q:  How many do they have?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're down to about 32 now, if I
recall. But I'm not going to be held to that number.
In terms of educational reform, the two Presidents did have a good
discussion on that. Both Presidents think that reform of the Pakistani
education system is key if you're going to get this enlightened state
to develop inside Pakistan.
It's a comprehensive reform that's going on, is what President
Musharraf described. There was a good bit of discussion on the
question of madrassah education and the President -- President Bush
pushed on that, said, how's that going? And President Musharraf said,
we're making progress, not as fast as I would like, he admitted, but
we've already seen some 1,200 madrassahs register with the government.
That means two things. First of all, they will get Pakistani
government support. Secondly, they will commit themselves to teaching
a partly secular curriculum and will agree to curriculum guidelines.
We are working very vigorously. As you implied, we made a commitment
of a $100 million over five years to the Pakistani educational system.
We're entering into the third fiscal year on that. And we've seen
Q: And my understanding of that is that the thrust of those reforms is
to take the madrassahs and turn them from sort of laboratories for
radical Islamic training and turn them into sort of basic educational
institutions. Is that a fair --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely, yes. Absolutely. To sort
of get them away from rote learning of the Koran plus hatred of
America into a study of the Koran but also study of math, science --
English, too -- topics that the Pakistani children really want.
Q: When you said no new F-16s, are you talking about the old F-16s
that were never delivered?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It depends on what you mean.
Basically, that is a dead issue. Those are long gone, we repaid the
money to the Pakistanis. Those don't exist. I forgot who it was who
ended up getting them, but those don't exist sitting at an Air Force
base some place for us to turn over.
Q:  So that deal is off the books?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And it has
been for several years.
Q: On the economic aid side, what is the President's thinking on this
question of, you know, it used to be referred as, draining the swamp.
Does the President acknowledge or does he believe that economic aid is
necessary or, basically, dealing with poverty is necessary to
eliminate the roots of terrorism? And, if so, is this aid package
tailored in any way to produce that result?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're almost giving me a quote from
the conversation. No. The two Presidents did agree absolutely that,
you know, you have to address root problems like a distorted
educational system and poverty. Those are the two they mentioned
together in addressing the problem of -- longer-term of terrorism. So,
yes, there was a -- it looks like you read my memorandum of
conversation before I have even written it up. There's an
understanding of that issue, and President Musharraf clearly feels
that he has to address this smartly, or his country faces longer-term
Was there another part of your question I missed?  No.
Q: How is the money tailored, then? I know you said you hadn't done
details, but what is your thinking about how to tailor the money to
accomplish those particular goals?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there are a couple of things
we're looking at. One thing we're looking at is debt reduction, which
doesn't seem as directly tied, but, of course, it does free up money
longer term that can be diverted to social needs.
We haven't come up with a final design for how we're going to spend
the money. Some of it probably will go to debt relief. A lot of it
will go into social sectors. Like I said, we've got a good program on
education, we've also got a good program on child and health survival,
CHS, looking at how you help children survive the early years.
I have mentioned this figure of $600 million a year. Perhaps you're
not aware that this year, this coming year, FY '04, we are providing
roughly $121 million divided among the education package that I talked
of earlier, this child health survival scheme, also working on
building roads in the tribal areas -- a range of social issues -- to
try and address the question of poverty alleviation.
Q:  You said, proposed in '04?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, proposed in '04. We've given
money in '03, that was at about the $100 million level. We're at --
$120 million is requested for '04, of course, it hasn't been passed
yet, so it's contingent upon conference.
Q:  That's not part of the $3 billion, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's not part of the $3 billion at
all. These are separate funds, okay? This $3 billion I'm talking about
is ESF and FMF, economic support funds and foreign military financing.
Q:  Not until 2005 for the $3 billion?
Q:  Can I just follow-up on the debt?  How much debt is left?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With the U.S., about $2 billion. There
is also, I think, about $12 billion. There's a lot of other debt that
Pakistan has, not just U.S.
Q:  What's the --
Q:  What's the $12 billion, you said?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that's outstanding debt to --
other bilateral debt and IFI (International Financial Institutions)
debt only. And, of course, there's also domestic debt.
Q: Is the President satisfied with what he heard about the extremists
operating in border areas and making incursions into Afghanistan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I haven't briefed you much on that,
but, yes, President Musharraf was very forward leaning on that, and
makes it clear that we've got to work together. I don't know if
anybody noticed, but we've set up this trilateral commission that has
just begun meeting, where we, the Afghans and Pakistanis look at
what's going on in the border area and try to find a way to make it
work better.
One of the other points that President Musharraf stressed was his
government's desire to ensure better control in these tribal areas
that border Afghanistan, while, as we were saying earlier, developing
the tribal areas. It's a two-pronged policy. The Paks have never
controlled the tribal areas. They figure they need to, to get back
control -- it's not just moving in people with guns, it's also
developing the areas.
Q: Could I follow up just on Kashmir? When you said the President said
he was willing to play a role, is that -- are you willing to mediate
between India and Pakistan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're not getting into that, because
nobody has asked us yet. Really what we're saying is, when and if the
two sides think we have a role to play, we will play that role that
the two sides agree on.
Q: Did the issue of Pakistan not recognizing Israel come up? Musharraf
sort of indicated a few months ago that maybe Pakistan would rethink
its policy towards Tel Aviv and he got sort of pounded by the
conservatives in Pakistan. Was this discussed in any way, at all? One
other question --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let that be recorded shake of the
head, no.
Q: Musharraf used the phrase, "free trade," but President Bush did
not. There's a lot of controversy about textile imports from Pakistan
and there's a lot of sentiment in the U.S. Congress to keep barriers
and tariffs on textile imports. Does President Bush envision a free
trade agreement with Pakistan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, there are so many steps. There was
a discussion of liberalizing trade between our two countries, because
we are signing this trade and investment framework agreement. And the
best way to look at that is to set up a framework for discussing the
trade issues. The President said, look, a free trade area is a two-way
commitment that involves a lot of issue and, frankly, would require a
lot of liberalization of Pakistan's economy.
They did discuss textiles, to some degree. And the President told --
reiterated to President Musharraf something he realizes, that come
2005, the quotas are off, the tariffs are off, our market becomes
totally liberalized. So trying to plan -- basically, he encouraged
Pakistan to plan for the future, to be looking at where the Pakistani
economy will be developing.
So in terms of a free trade area, we've got a long, long way to go,
and the Pakistanis understand that. We're perfectly willing to start
moving down that road, but that requires movement on both sides and,
frankly, it will require increasing liberalization with the Pakistani
Q: Was there any discussion of the theory put forth by Musharraf that
Osama bin Laden might be moving freely between the border region
there? Was that discussed privately?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Except at the Q&A, no. It did come up
at the Q&A. And, basically, I think Musharraf gave the best answer
possible, which is, we're determined to track down all of al Qaeda
that are using Pakistani territory. And he has no clue whether he's --
where UBL is, if he's still alive.
Q:  What's our assessment of the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Excuse me, I'll go over here for a
Q: President Musharraf seems to get along well with President Bush.
But he's not popular in Pakistan. He's facing a lot of domestic
political instability. He's, after all, unelected President, a
military head, as well. Was there discussion on Pakistan's internal
politics in the meeting? Did the U.S. show any concern for the
so-called road to democracy in Pakistan that General Musharraf has
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as I've sort of implied a couple
times, the President made it clear that Pakistan's movement towards
democracy must continue, that this is really sort of the -- part of
the bedrock of our relationship. And President Musharraf reiterated
that he's committed to moving down that road and we expect him to
continue to do so.
Q: Did you set benchmarks towards that road? I mean, is there anything
that you point to as an indication of his commitment towards
democratic principles, considering his track record?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My colleague and I were having this
discussion. I mean, basically, coming from a functioning democracy we
can tell when a country is moving away from democracy or towards
democracy. And as I said earlier, I don't want to harp on this,
because there's not an automatic causality. But, look, we're going
forward with a major bilateral assistance program that is predicated
on the assumption that in Pakistan we have a partner that is moving
against terrorism, moving against proliferation, and committed towards
moving towards democracy.
Q: What's our assessment of how their -- the Pakistani efforts to get
control of these tribal areas? Is it working? Have they committed
enough troops and enough resources to do it? Has it been intensifying
in recent weeks and months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I won't go into any great detail, but
it's clear they are making genuine efforts. And it's clear, it hasn't
been enough yet. They'll tell you that. But they are making efforts.
That's not baloney. That is true.
Q: One more. You mentioned nonproliferation as one of the three keys
to assessing the progress of the relationship. I didn't hear either
President talk about that issue in the public Q&A. Was that discussed
in the private meeting?
Q: And did Musharraf make some new commitments or undertakings to get
a grip on it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He said that he totally understood our
views and that, don't worry, Pakistan will not be doing anything that
will cause us concern -- is not doing and will not be doing.
Q:  Are we not worried?  Or are we worried?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We trust his commitments.
Q:  That's specifically in reference to North Korea at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will tell you that, yes, North Korea
did come up.
Q:  In what context?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, obviously, what we were talking
Q: Were there specific -- did he -- did Musharraf make a specific
commitment not to do certain things regarding North Korea?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He basically made it clear that he
understood that any sort of contacts in any sort of military-related
field, whatever they are, are a no-go area.
Q:  He agreed to a firm commitment not to have any?
Q: Can you say that as a result of the talks, are you confident that
the cross-border terrorism with India will stop? What was the extent
of the discussion on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will say that -- I think the
President put it about as well as anybody can, which is what we expect
and what we think Musharraf needs to commit to and we think he has
committed to is a hundred percent effort at trying to stop
cross-border incidents. I'll leave it at that.
The President has been working in the Middle East very intensively.
And I think anybody who sees the developments in the Middle East
appreciates that the worst thing you can do is give the rejectionists
a veto over any movement towards peace. There will always be people
with guns. There will always be people with bombs. The question is,
how do we isolate them and, over time, make them irrelevant, as the
two sides -- I'm talking about the Middle East right now, but it's
obviously relevant to Pakistan and India, too -- as the two sides move
towards peace and understanding.
Q: To go back to the moving toward democracy, you mentioned the
educational reforms. What are the other factors that you look at,
examples of areas you look at?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Obviously, a functioning parliament.
We could get into -- down into weeds, but actually the Pakistanis are
looking at very solid things like devolution of power down to lower
levels, on the assumption that this would build democracy at the grass
roots, if it works well in favor of it.
But, basically, a functioning democratic system with functioning
parliaments and functioning representation, including down to very low
THE PRESS:  Thank you.
END     4:00 P.M. EDT
(end transcript)
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