Dawn, Pakistan, 23 February 2006
Bush plans to sign investment treaty: Greater cooperation with Pakistan on cards
By Anwar Iqbal and Masood Haider
WASHINGTON, Feb 22: US President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that a bilateral investment treaty that he is planning to sign during his visit to Islamabad will be the first step towards greater trade and commercial relations with Pakistan.
“We have a genuine, real and tangible commitment to the people of Pakistan,” said Mr Bush in an exclusive interview to Dawn and another Pakistani newspaper at the White House.
The treaty that Mr Bush referred to has almost been finalised and the two sides are now working to clear some technical points. While Mr Bush was talking to the media, Pakistan’s ambassador arrived at the White House to discuss these technical points with senior presidential aides.
The interview, which will be published in greater detail on Friday, covered a wide range of issues, including a nuclear deal Mr Bush plans to finalize during his visit to India and its consequences for Pakistan, the India-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, more visas for Pakistani students and trade and commercial ties between Islamabad and Washington.
While talking about the key issue of Kashmir, Mr Bush said the dispute should be settled to the satisfaction of all three parties, including Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris.
He said while he understood that the proposed pipeline was important for meeting energy needs of India and Pakistan, it was equally important that these two countries stand with the international community in preventing Iran from making nuclear weapons.
Mr Bush said that America’s offer of nuclear cooperation with India was also in Pakistan’s interest, because all developing countries need clean sources of energy, but he did not say if he could make a similar arrangement with Pakistan.
When reminded that the Commonwealth had recently asked President General Pervez Musharraf to quit as military chief by 2007, Mr Bush said he had discussed the issue of democracy with President Musharraf who was aware of the demand for him to abandon his position in the army.
“I am pleased with my personal relationship with President Musharraf. He has a tough assignment ... dealing with people who ... have attempted to kill him and with other issues,” said Mr Bush.
He said he had “never” thought of cancelling his trip to Pakistan and was going ahead with it despite the ongoing violent protests against blasphemous cartoons.
South Asia policy: Earlier in the day in an address to the Asia Society, George W. Bush encouraged India and Pakistan to continue to work together to improve their relations, reminding them that America’s ties with both was a source of strength for the peace process.
Enunciating his policy towards South Asia days before his visits to the region, Mr Bush noted that not long ago, relations between the two countries were so bad that “if we had relations with one, it was a cause of concern for the other”.
Mr Bush, who initiated the policy of de-hyphenation which emphasises that America’s relations with one nation will not be at the expense of the other, said his new policy was already having an impact and neither India nor Pakistan now looked at Washington’s ties with the other with concern.
The US president also noted that India and Pakistan were now working “closely” to improve their relations and trade between them had nearly doubled this year.
“They are now engaged in dialogue over the difficult question of Kashmir, which, not long ago, was the source of trouble between the two countries,” he said.
“Prime Minister Singh and President Musharraf have shown themselves to be leaders of courage and vision. In my visit I will encourage them to address this important issue,” said Mr Bush.
But he also made it clear that Kashmir was a bilateral dispute and the US could do no more than encourage the two sides to move forward. “The United States supports a solution that is acceptable to both sides,” he said.
Mr Bush, who is scheduled to meet representatives of major Indian and Pakistani newspapers, including Dawn, later Wednesday, chose his speech to Washington’s Asia Society to underscore salient features of his policies towards South Asia.
He described the pictures of violent demonstrations in Pakistan being shown on television screens across the world as “images of passion” and said that some people had “manipulated” the cartoon controversy to “incite violence”.
“When protest turns violent governments have the obligation to restore the rule of law and to ensure that diplomats are not harmed,” said Mr Bush. “We must not allow mobs to dominate the streets of South Asia.”
He said while the US believed that people had the right to express their feelings, it also believed in free press.
Mr Bush said that since the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, “more and more people in South Asia are looking for the fruits of freedom”.
He said he was confident that the people of South Asia will be able to achieve “the fruits of freedom” because “we have two strong partners in India and Pakistan”.
He said while it took years to achieve the fruits of freedom, South Asians need to proceed with caution towards achieving this goal.
Mr Bush said while the people say that the 21st century would be an Asian one, “I believe it will be the freedom century.”
President Bush said the nuclear agreement he reached with India on July 18 and is expected to finalize during his visit to New Delhi will bring India into the international mainstream and also strengthen the “bonds of friendship” between the two countries.
In a South Asia-specific address to the Asia Society, the president did not say whether the deal would be finalized by the time he arrived in New Delhi but he counselled patience, suggesting the two sides have yet to overcome some difficulties.
“This is not an easy decision for India or the United States,” he said. “Implementing it will take time and patience.”
He said the United States continued to “encourage” India to offer a credible and defensible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programme, the process which is now under discussion between US negotiator Nicholas Burns and Indian officials.