Lifting of economic sanctions advocated: US official for better ties between India and Pakistan
By Tahir Mirza - DAWN
WASHINGTON, May 18: Describing Pakistan and India as the "two anchors of South Asia", US Assistant Secretary of State-designate Christina B. Rocca on Thursday expressed her belief that sanctions against the two countries had outlived their utility and comprised an obstacle to America's engagement with the subcontinent.
She said a general review of the sanctions was in progress as well as of policy on the subcontinent as a whole, and it would be a mistake on the part of the US, India and Pakistan to "allow ourselves to be trapped in the mistakes of the past". The time had come, she stressed, to move forward, individually and together.
Ms Rocca will be the key official in the State Department dealing on a day-to-day basis with the South Asia policy.
Her remarks came during her confirmation hearing by the Senate foreign relations committee, which was presided over by Senator Sam Brownback.
It is almost certain after Ms Rocca's remarks that US economic sanctions with regard to the subcontinent will soon be lifted, but Pakistan also has democracy sanctions against it which are unlikely to be withdrawn till the military regime gives way to an elected government.
Neither in Ms Rocca's written statement nor during the question-answer session was Kashmir ever mentioned, nor Osama bin Laden. But she did say the Taliban continued to pose a grave threat to the people of Afghanistan, to their neighbours and to the international community. Afghanistan, she stated, was an "enormous challenge" because of its emergence as the "world locus of transnational terrorism".
In reply to questions from the committee whether the Bush administration would follow the Clinton administration's policy of seeking Indian and Pakistan adherence to the CTBT, Ms Rocca simply said the US welcomed continuation of a nuclear test moratorium and continued to emphasize restraint on both countries.
In her prepared statement, which was fairly non-committal and couched in general terms, Ms Rocca described America's friendship with Pakistan as of "long standing" that must be sustained and enhanced.
"Pakistan," she said, "is an important regional power and an important Islamic power. For these reasons and many more, the Bush administration is committed to working through difficult economic, political and social challenges now facing Pakistan. Where we can cooperate, in areas such (as) counter-narcotics, we must continue. Where we do not cooperate optimally, for example on Afghanistan, we must work harder to show Pakistan the shared threat we face from the regime in Kabul."
She also underlined the importance of aid to Pakistan's education sector. On India, Ms Rocca said the Bush administration would continue the Clinton policy of substantive bilateral engagement. "The past few years have seen the beginning of a transformation in our relationship with the world's largest democracy. Now is the time to complete that transformation," she said. "India's economic potential, following a decade of market reform, is immense. We are India's largest trading partner, but bilateral trade remains far below where it should be." She said she would work to devote time to remedying this situation.
The News/Jang reports:
WASHINGTON: Christina Rocca, the prospective 'boss' of South Asian Affairs at the State Department, pledged on Thursday to implement the Bush administration's commitment "to working through the difficult economic, political and social challenges now facing Pakistan."
In her confirmation proceedings before the Senate's Foreign Affairs sub-committee, with her mentor Senator Brownback sitting on her suitability as the next Assistant Secretary of State, Rocca expressed her resolve to work harder with Pakistan to iron out differences with Islamabad over Afghanistan...
She said the US relationship with India and Pakistan had tremendous potential. "Too often that potential has gone unrealized. But the time has come individually and together to move forward," she added. However, Rocca was unrelenting when it came to Afghanistan. She said the Taliban in Afghanistan continued to pose a great threat to the people of Afghanistan, to their neighbours and to the international community. "This is an area of the world which has suffered from our neglect, and the Afghan people deserve better."
The current humanitarian crisis, grave human rights problems, decades of war and emergence as the world locus for transnational terrorism pose enormous challenges to both the US and the international community." She acknowledged that it was a daunting problem with no easy solution. "We have a very clear interest in finding a solution to bring peace to Afghanistan," she added.
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