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Homeland Security

21 March 2003

U.S. Has Strengthened Its Focus on South Asia after September 11

(State's Rocca addresses India-Pakistan ties at congressional hearing)
By Afzal Khan
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States after the September 11 attacks has
"significantly changed and deepened" its relationships with nations in
South Asia, said Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of State for
south Asian affairs, in testimony before the Subcommittee on Asia and
the Pacific of the House International Relations Committee on March
Rocca said that as a result of this renewed focus on the region, the
United States has been able to obtain close cooperation from countries
in the region in the global war against terrorism, particularly from
Pakistan which is on the frontline of this war. At the same time, the
United States has also transformed its relationship with India in
recognition of that country's emergence as a major regional power and
as a democracy that shares similar values with the United States,
Rocca said.
U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in the war on terrorism includes
coordination of intelligence and law enforcement agencies of both
countries in hunting al-Qaida and other terrorists within Pakistan.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan has apprehended
close to 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives and their affiliates, Rocca
said. Only a week earlier, she noted, the U.S. lifted
democracy-related sanctions on Pakistan in recognition for its help in
capturing Khalid Mohammed Sheikh, the al-Qaida lieutenant believed to
have master-minded the September 11 attacks.
In the question-answer session that followed, Rocca said that the
tracking of al-Qaida leader Usama bin Laden has now spread over a
"broader area." Rocca stressed that the United States is "happy" with
what the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf is doing
in the war against terrorism.
Rocca said $19 million in U.S. aid has been specifically designed to
build roads to extend the reach of Pakistan's federal government in
the autonomous tribal borderland between northwestern Pakistan and
Afghanistan, where Usama bin Laden is suspected of hiding. Rocca
dismissed suggestions that senior Pakistani government or intelligence
officials may be aiding and abetting al-Qaida fugitives in the border
region. However, she left open a question open from a congressman
whether lower-level officials could possibly be sympathetic to
al-Qaida and Taliban elements hiding there.
The other crucial issue facing the United States in the region is the
threat of nuclear proliferation and the possibility of a nuclear war
between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir. Rocca
said that one of the greatest challenges to advancing U.S. goals of
"moderation, stability and development" in South Asia is the
continuing tension between India and Pakistan, "primarily over
Kashmir." Rocca welcomed state elections in Kashmir in 2002 and urged
"dialogue and restraint" between the two countries. She stressed that
"continued U.S. attention and creative diplomacy" will be essential to
prevent another confrontation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
On the issue of nuclear proliferation in South Asia, Rocca said that
although India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States has exerted pressure on
both countries to abide by the following guidelines:
-- Exercising restraint to curtail any new nuclear tests; minimizing
missile tests while continuing to announce impending ones so as not to
alarm authorities in either country; and strongly recommending that
they stop building more intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
-- Imposing strict export controls on nuclear technology and
fissionable materials so that they cannot be clandestinely exported to
other countries.
-- Diffusing tension between the two countries by updating and
establishing new hot lines of communication between their leaders.
Rocca particularly emphasized the need for vigilance in interdicting
transfers of enriched uranium from Pakistan to North Korea in exchange
for missiles. She said that Secretary of State Colin Powell has made
it very clear that the United States will not tolerate such transfers
between Pakistan and North Korea.
Overall, Rocca told Subcommittee members that the U.S. has received
"excellent cooperation" from all countries in the region and that
diplomacy in South Asia is aided by the "transparency in our
relations." However, she conceded that the United States has a problem
with its image in the Muslim world, and she said more had to be done
to send a positive message to that part of the world.
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Leach commented: "At
all times, but particularly at this critical moment, American cultural
and public diplomacy needs to be attuned to the fact that a quarter of
the world's Muslims live in South Asia. India, Bangladesh, and
Pakistan each have more than 130 million Muslims, and Pakistan is the
only modern state founded explicitly as a homeland for Muslims."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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