After scoring a scoop with his interview with US President George W Bush -- the only interview the president has granted any South Asian publication -- last month, Aziz Haniffa, National Affairs Editor at India Abroad, the leading newspaper for the Indian-American community owned by rediff.com, scored a unique double last week by interviewing Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John F Kerry.
In an exclusive interview, published in this week's issue of India Abroad, Kerry discussed the Indian-American community's contributions to mainstream America, relations with India and, of course, outsourcing.
The second of a three-part interview:
US policy over the years has been to encourage India and Pakistan to resolve differences, including Kashmir, bilaterally. Washington has made it clear it will not mediate unless asked to by both sides. Pakistan has been imploring the US to do so while India has said no and asked the US and the international community only to facilitate a peace process. If elected, what policy will you put in place? Will you take a pro-active US role in helping to resolve differences, particularly Kashmir?
We all have an interest in seeing the Kashmir issue resolved in a fair and equitable and -- this is essential -- peaceful manner. The Indians, and Pakistanis, have an even more direct interest in wanting to ensure this problem does not impede the progress made over the past year. The solution rests in New Delhi, Islamabad, and Srinagar. No solution can be imposed from the outside.
The US role over the years has been largely passive, reactive, and -- with one or two exceptions, as when President Clinton persuaded Pakistan to turn back at the time of the 1999 Kargil crisis -- secondary. We must view the Kashmir issue as something other than a crisis-management issue. We should not seek to impose any plan. We should be willing to give India and Pakistan as much help as they might jointly request. To give one example, we might provide technological assistance to help monitor cross-border activities.
In addition, we will push Pakistan to cut-off support for cross-border terrorism.
How would you -- if elected President -- convince India to join in a peacekeeping role in Iraq and help stabilize the country by internationalising the coalition troops there, which is largely a US-led force with mercenaries a close second?
We must reclaim our country's standing in the world by leading in a way that brings others to us. We must be respected, not simply feared, around the globe.
India has a significant interest in a stable Iraq. But this administration has not made the case to India. Instead, the Bush administration has alienated friends. The President's rush to war without a plan to win peace has left our troops to pay the price. The failure to reverse course and come up with a plan for success means other nations don't even know the role they would be asked to fill.
I will ensure our engagement with India involves issues and concerns that India cares about. I will discuss ways we might cooperate, and proposals that India might have. The dialogue will include relatively low-risk but critical roles, such as training Iraqi security personnel and securing Iraq's borders.
This administration refused or waited too long to take concrete steps that would make clear our commitment to a truly international effort. Throughout, this administration has made lacklustre efforts to bring other nations to the table. This is a tremendous failure of leadership and diplomacy. I will reach out to friends in New Delhi and across the globe.
India has been not only disappointed but quite peeved over President Bush's decision to designate Pakistan a Major Non-NATO Ally. What was your reaction?
This was another case where the President botched diplomacy. Time and again, the President has damaged our nation's friendships.
Ironically, in moving to build our relationship with Pakistan, the President needlessly damaged our relationship with India.
I am troubled by the way the administration implemented the decision -- Secretary Colin Powell was in New Delhi before going to Islamabad. He didn't even give India the courtesy of a heads-up before dropping the bombshell. The administration seems to take India's goodwill for granted. As President, I won't.
I will give the US-India relationship the attention it deserves. This is important to our nation and it is important to our relationship with the world's largest democracy.
Will you put pressure on President Musharraf to return Pakistan to civilian rule? How do you feel about massive American military largesse flowing into Pakistan? The Bush administration considers Pakistan a front-line ally in the global war on terror but India fears the weapons could one day be used against it?
Pakistan, like India, has been an important American ally in the war on terrorism. A secure, democratic, economically vibrant Pakistan is in everybody's interest -- ours, India's, and, most of all the people of Pakistan.
As President, I'll work hard to help Pakistanis build the kind of government and society that President Musharraf promised in his speech January 12, 2002.
I will work with President Musharraf's government and use American assistance and prestige to help Pakistanis build the political, economic and social institutions that are the foundation of democracy. One key area is supporting moderate education. We have seen the dangers of radical madrassas that preach hatred and intolerance. But we have not done enough to support moderate alternatives.
Pakistani youth need a good education to give them job skills and hope. The 9/11 Commission has recommended that we support education in Pakistan. I have endorsed the recommendation and called on the President to implement it immediately. Doing so is absolutely vital to prevent the emergence of a new generation of terrorists. It is a step I will take immediately.
How much of pressure would you exert on Pakistan to eschew fomenting cross-border terrorism in India, particularly across the Line of Control into Kashmir?
Cross-border terrorism must stop. Period. I cannot say that often enough. The support Pakistan has given to terrorist actions in Kashmir -- official or unofficial -- must cease.
If elected, would you support India's bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council? Three of the Permanent Five -- Britain, Russia and France -- have said they would support India's candidacy. China has acknowledged it favours a larger role for India in the UN, though not committing to full-fledged support for a seat on the Security Council. Only the US has remained non-committal on the issue.
India certainly merits serious consideration for a permanent seat in any Security Council expansion proposal. It is a thriving democracy. Its billion-plus people, its expanding economy, and its long-standing contribution to UN peacekeeping are important reasons that should be considered in the context of any Security Council reform.
A high-level panel appointed by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan will soon report on how to reform and revitalise the UN so that it will be capable of responding to threats we face today, including the grave threat of global terrorism. The panel's proposals, as well as candidate support for international institutions and norms in a broad range of areas, will be carefully studied.
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Image: Uday Kuckian