A New U.S. Policy Toward India and Pakistan

Task Force Report
Analysis and policy prescriptions of major foreign policy issues facing the United States, developed through private deliberations among a diverse and distinguished group of experts.

Executive Summary

Fifty years after gaining independence, India and Pakistan remain at odds. Given both countries’ de facto nuclear capabilities, their continued rivalry flirts with disaster. Yet to date Indo-Pakistani nuclear competition has remained within limits, direct war has been avoided for a generation, and both countries have experienced significant economic growth.

Gideon Rose
Gideon Rose

Adjunct Senior Fellow

U.S. interests in South Asia, although not vital, are important and increasing. These interests include preventing major war and further nuclear proliferation; expanding economic growth, trade, and investment; promoting robust democratic institutions; and cooperating on issues ranging from enhancing stability across Asia to combating terrorism and drug trafficking. The end of the Cold War should permit a substantial improvement of bilateral relations between Washington and both New Delhi and Islamabad, as well as between the two principal South Asian states. But seizing this opportunity will require more creative thinking and skillful diplomacy than has been the norm. It is long since time to end the relative U.S. neglect of these two countries and the fifth of humanity they represent.

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Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament



A number of specific findings and recommendations emerged from Task Force deliberations. On several matters—notably those involving nuclear proliferation, U.S. arms sales, and Kashmir—there was considerable debate and disagreement. Readers are encouraged to weigh the full rationale for the Task Force’s conclusions offered in the text below, as well as the additional and dissenting views offered by some Task Force members that are presented at the end of the report. Together, though, the recommendations of the Task Force constitute a bold new U.S. approach toward India and Pakistan, one that could be reinforced by working in parallel with European and Asian governments. For this to become the actual policy of the United States, however, the administration would have to make South Asia a foreign policy priority and be willing to expend substantial effort negotiating among India, Pakistan, other countries in the area, and Congress. We urge the second Clinton administration to make such an effort along the lines described here.

Nuclear Issues
During the last few years, U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan has focused primarily on deterring and reversing the nuclear weaponization of the subcontinent. Congressional actions have subordinated other aspects of both bilateral relationships to the nuclear issue, most notably in the case of Pakistan. The Clinton administration, like its predecessors, has chafed at these legislative restraints and sought expanded bilateral relationships and a more realistic approach to nonproliferation issues. It has worked with members of Congress to mitigate certain existing sanctions. Still, it has not invested substantial political capital in bringing congressional and executive policies fully into line.

Despite U.S. nonproliferation efforts, both India and Pakistan have become de facto nuclear weapons-capable states and show no sign of changing course. Such behavior has triggered U.S. sanctions, which in turn have constricted U.S. bilateral relationships with both countries. This is unfortunate, because the current situation calls for more, rather than less, U.S. engagement. For increased engagement to occur, however, there needs to be an understanding across both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government that reversing these countries' de facto nuclear weapons status is currently extremely unlikely.

In the nonproliferation arena, U.S. policy should focus instead on establishing a more stable and sustainable plateau for Indian and Pakistani nuclear relations. This would involve concentrating on persuading both countries to refrain from testing nuclear explosives, deploying nuclear weapons, and exporting nuclear weapon- or missile-related material, technology, or expertise. The United States should also urge both countries to refrain from missile deployments and cease unsafeguarded production of fissile material.

U.S. Bilateral Relationships
The United States should significantly expand its bilateral economic, political, and military ties with India and Pakistan simultaneously. It is both possible and desirable to delink the two bilateral relationships and transcend the zero-sum dynamics that have often plagued the region (and U.S. policy) in the past.

More on:

Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament



The time is ripe, in particular, for the United States to propose a closer strategic relationship with India, which has the potential to emerge as a full-fledged major power. The relationship would be based on shared values and institutions, economic collaboration including enhanced trade and investment, and the goal of regional stability across Asia. Consistent with these interests, the Task Force recommends that the United States adopt a declaratory policy that acknowledges India's growing power and importance; maintain high-level attention including regular reciprocal visits of cabinet members and senior officials; loosen unilateral U.S. constraints upon the transfer of dual-use technologies; increase military-to-military cooperation; cooperate on elements of India's civilian nuclear power program and other energy-related issues; and undertake limited conventional arms sales. The United States should also support India’s entry into Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and consult with India regarding its interest in membership in other regional and global institutions.

At the same time, the United States should work to restore normal and close working relations with Pakistan. This should include providing credits for trade and investment; cooperating on energy-related issues; helping in debt reduction or forgiveness; and providing aid to support social welfare, economic modernization, privatization, and the reform of tax, electoral, and development mechanisms, all of which will promote Pakistan's political and economic stability. The United States should also maintain its links and channels of communication to the Pakistani military, both assisting it with training and encouraging it to support the development of a more firmly rooted democratic political system. International Military Education and Training (IMET) should be extended to help keep Pakistan’s armed forces professional and linked to the West. The United States should also be prepared to resume limited conventional arms sales to Pakistan. Military equipment sales should not contribute to Pakistan’s (or India’s) nuclear weapons programs or delivery capabilities, nor, in accord with established U.S. policy, should they be undertaken to alter the military balance in the region.

Some of these measures should go forward unconditionally, since they promote U.S. interests regardless of other circumstances. In certain areas, however, the desire and ability of the United States to expand relations will clearly be affected by Indian and Pakistani behavior. In this vein, India's recent decision to impede progress on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as well as disclosures of Pakistan’s continuing work (with Chinese help) on a plant to manufacture ballistic missiles, are demonstrably unhelpful. Destabilizing moves by either country would almost certainly restrict the possibilities for cooperation and might even result in the reintroduction of selective, preferably multinational sanctions. Any such decision, however, should be made by the executive branch, after consultation with Congress and other governments and only if sanctions make sense in light of the full range of U.S. national security interests.

U.S. Policy Instruments
Rigid, narrowly focused legislative mandates are in general a poor way of addressing the complex problems involved in making foreign policy. In the case of nuclear proliferation in South Asia, such constraints have achieved modest success at best while holding a diverse range of U.S. interests hostage not merely to one issue area but to specific requirements in that area that have been overtaken by events. Unconditional sanctions that cannot be waived or adjusted by the president deny policymakers the ability to design and execute a foreign policy that could help stabilize Indo-Pakistani nuclear competition and promote other U.S. interests.

Nevertheless, there was disagreement within the Task Force over how much of the legislative framework currently constraining U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan needs to be altered in order to implement the Task Force’s general recommendations regarding nonproliferation policy and improved bilateral relations. Views ranged from repealing the legislation to maintaining it as is. A majority of the Task Force, however, coalesced around the option of expanding relations as much as possible within the existing legislative framework while simultaneously working to modify relevant legislation as necessary in order to support the full range of initiatives described below.

Kashmir is a principal, but not the sole, cause of tensions between India and Pakistan. It is also a reflection of their general state of animosity. If the Kashmir dispute were resolved tomorrow, relations between the two countries would still be somewhat sour. Still, Kashmir remains a possible casus belli. Unfortunately, there is no “right” or plausible solution to the conflict in sight. The U.S. government does not have a great deal of leverage on this issue, and the time is not ripe for Washington to launch a major new initiative. U.S. interests in both India and Pakistan are best served by working with other governments on a step-by-step approach toward a series of practical interim, rather than “final status,” objectives. Such an international “contact group” ought to pursue mainly quiet, multilateral diplomacy in this area, promoting modest incremental steps to ease tensions, reduce friction between the protagonists, and restore political normalcy in Kashmir.

Economic Liberalization
The United States should strongly support Indian and Pakistani internal economic reforms, which themselves will be the most important factor in promoting growth and development in the region over the long term. Because U.S.-Indian economic relations are likely to expand significantly in years to come, potential sources of economic friction should be handled whenever possible through multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Regional Cooperation
Almost half a century after independence, Indo-Pakistani relations are less extensive than were those between the United States and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. The United States and other interested governments and organizations should encourage regular, sustained, and multifaceted contact between India and Pakistan in a wide variety of areas including trade, energy and resource development, education, cultural exchanges, travel freedom, commercial projects, telecommunications, and sports. Outsiders should also promote informal regional interactions, “Track II” diplomacy, and a “regularization” of intercourse at every official level.

U.S. Government Bureaucratic Reorganization
Separate divisions dealing with South Asia should be created in major U.S. agencies, with standing interdivision task forces used to address the region's ties to other areas. Bureaucratic arrangements alone, however, cannot substitute for the development of a larger body of competent and committed individuals with South Asian expertise. Nor can they substitute for a basic decision to accord the region a higher priority in years to come, something the Task Force, based on its appraisal of U.S. interests, supports unanimously and unequivocally.

Task Force Members

Task Force Members

Marshall M. Bouton: Dr. Bouton is executive vice president of the Asia Society. He served previously as director of policy analysis for the Near East, Africa, and South Asia in the U.S. Department of Defense.

William Clark, Jr.: Mr. Clark is president of the Japan Society. He was U.S. ambassador to India from 1989 to 1992.

Stephen P. Cohen: Dr. Cohen is director of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security at the University of Illinois, where he is also professor of political science and history. The author or editor of eight books on South Asia, he served as a member of the U.S. Department of State Policy Planning staff from 1985 to 1987 and was Ford Foundation scholar-in-residence in India from 1992 to 1993.

Lewis A. Dunn: Dr. Dunn is vice president and manager of the Weapons Proliferation and Strategic Planning Operation at the Science Applications International Corporation.

Francine R. Frankel:**Dr. Frankel is professor of political science and director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania. She is editor of Bridging the Non-Proliferation Divide: The United States and India (1995) and is currently writing a book on foreign policy decision-making in India and the United States.

Sumit Ganguly:**Dr. Ganguly is professor of political science at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is the author of The Origins of War in South Asia (Second Edition, 1994) and Between War and Peace: The Crisis in Kashmir (forthcoming).

Thomas W. Graham:*Dr. Graham oversees the International Security Program at the Rockefeller Foundation. He has followed nuclear weapons issues involving India, Pakistan, and China as a foundation officer; a scholar at Stanford, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a foreign affairs officer at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; and a consultant to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Richard N. Haass: Dr. Haass, until recently director of national security programs for the Council on Foreign Relations, is director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. He was senior director for Near East and South Asian Affairs on the National Security Council staff during the Bush administration.

David A. Hamburg: Dr. Hamburg is president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-chair of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.

Selig S. Harrison:**Mr. Harrison is a resident associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the author of four books on South Asia and coauthor of India and America After the Cold War (1993), the report of a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Task Force. He lived in South Asia for six years as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Washington Post and in other assignments as a foreign correspondent.

Neil Joeck: Dr. Joeck is a political analyst in the Directorate of Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and International Security at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Since completing his PhD dissertation at the University of California, Los Angeles, on nuclear proliferation in South Asia, he has published a number of articles on the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs.

Rodney W. Jones:*Dr. Jones is president of Policy Architects International. He participated in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) with the Soviet Union and successor states during the Bush and Clinton administrations. He has lived and worked as a scholar in India and Pakistan and has written extensively on security and nonproliferation issues.

John Kelly: Ambassador Kelly is managing director of International Equity Partners and head of its Atlanta, Georgia, office. He served as assistant secretary of state for the Near East and South Asia from 1989 to 1991.

Geoffrey Kemp: Dr. Kemp is director of regional strategic programs at the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom. He served as senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security staff during the Reagan administration. He is author of The Control of the Middle East Arms Race (1991).

Paul H. Kreisberg:**Mr. Kreisberg is a retired Foreign Service officer with extensive experience in India and Pakistan. He is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Since 1991, he has moderated a “Track II” series (“The Neemrana Dialogue”) of meetings between Indians and Pakistanis.

Michael Krepon:**Mr. Krepon is president of the Henry L. Stimson Center and coeditor of Crisis Prevention, Confidence Building, and Reconciliation in South Asia (1995).

Emily MacFarquhar: Ms. MacFarquhar writes about South Asia as a contributing editor of U.S. News and World Report. She previously covered the region as Asia editor of The Economist.

Robert B. Oakley: Mr. Oakley is a retired Foreign Service officer. He served as senior director for the Middle East and South Asia on the National Security Council staff during the Ford and Reagan administrations. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan from 1988 to 1991.

George Perkovich:*Mr. Perkovich is director of the Secure World Program of the W. Alton Jones Foundation. He has written extensively on nuclear weapons issues in India and Pakistan.

Gowher Rizvi: Mr. Rizvi is deputy director of the Governance and Civil Society Program at the Ford Foundation in New York.

Gideon Rose: Dr. Rose is a fellow for National Security Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as associate director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff from 1994 to 1995.

Stephen Solarz:**A member of Congress from 1975 to 1992, Mr. Solarz now serves as president of Solarz and Associates, an international consultancy, and as director of the George Washington University Foreign Policy Forum. While in Congress, Mr. Solarz was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, which has the primary congressional jurisdiction over U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid programs for South Asia.

Leonard S. Spector:*Dr. Spector is a senior associate and director of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

David Speedie: Mr. Speedie is Program Chair, Preventing Deadly Conflict, at the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Shirin R. Tahir-Kheli:***Dr. Tahir-Kheli served as director for political military affairs and director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff during the Reagan administration. She also served as ambassador to the United Nations for political affairs during the Bush administration. She has written extensively on South Asia and recently completed a book on the future of American policy toward India and Pakistan. She is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

George Tanham: Dr. Tanham is a retired vice president and trustee of RAND. He is now a resident consultant to RAND. He has written on defense matters in India, Pakistan, and South Asia, and on insurgency.

Raju G.C. Thomas:**Mr. Thomas is professor of political science at Marquette University. His books include Indian Security Policy (1986); South Asian Security in the 1990s (1994); and Democracy, Security, and Development in India (1996).

Robert G. Wirsing:**Dr. Wirsing is professor of international studies at the University of South Carolina. He has authored several books on South Asian politics and foreign policy.

*Indicates that individual submitted an Additional View.
**Indicates that individual submitted a Dissenting View.

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