March 2004 News

'Clinton promised Musharraf personal involvement on J&K'

24 March 2004
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: Former President Bill Clinton had promised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf he would personally help to solve the Kashmir issue with India, says former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. She said this in a testimony before the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the US on Wednesday. In course of trying to pressure Pakistan to get the brutal Taliban regime to stop giving a safe haven to Osama bin Laden, she said, Clinton offered a personal involvement in resolving the Kashmir dispute. 'The bottom line is that we did not have a strong hand to play with the Pakistanis,' said Albright. 'Because of the sanctions required by US law, we had few carrots to offer. And the Pakistanis saw the Taliban as a strategic asset in their confrontation with India over Kashmir,' Albright said. 'At a meeting of our foreign policy team Dec 20, 1999, we decided to send emissaries to Musharraf with the message that we expected bin Laden to be turned over in short order. 'In return, we promised support for international lending, talks on enhanced military cooperation and a commitment by President Clinton 'to take a personal interest in encouraging Indian-Pakistani dialogue on Kashmir.' Albright, who was the first woman ever to be secretary of state and held the position during the Clinton administration, said she went to Pakistan in 1997 at a turbulent time in that country's history and when then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was teetering in power. She provided an account of the Clinton administration's vain attempts to coerce Islamabad to get bin Laden ousted from Afghanistan. She warned the then Pakistan Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan that Pakistan would become a pariah state if it continued to support the Taliban. 'It concerns the US that Pakistan is in danger of being isolated because of its support of the Taliban, which is seen as authoritarian at best, and preposterous at worst, by the rest of the world,' she told Khan. After the African bombings of the US embassy, Albright said, 'we naturally focused on Pakistan as a source of pressure against the Taliban. When Sharif visited Washington in December 1998, Clinton made it uncompromisingly clear that bin Laden was a terrorist and Islamabad's help was essential to bring him to justice. Clinton in his June 19, 1999, letter to Sharif reiterated the need to pressure the Taliban, she cited. 'As we discussed, there are a number of levers like oil supplies and liaison ties that Pakistan could use to distance itself from the Taliban until and unless they expel bin Laden. 'You also mentioned your control over the Taliban's access to imports through Karachi. I would like to see you use any or all of those levers.' Sharif admitted he could do neither of these things and later could not carry out his plan to capture bin Laden with a targeted strike because he was overthrown in a military coup by President Musharraf. 'It was not until Sep 11, 2001, that Musharraf would have the motivation and justification in his own mind to try to sever ties between the Al-Qaida and Pakistani militants,' Albright noted, adding that despite doing that bin Laden had not been caught.


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