Interview with Colin L. Powell

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Nasim Zehra: Thank you, Mr. Secretary of State, for giving us this opportunity to talk to us. I’d like to first say that your article that you wrote, "Promise of a Partnership," which was published here in the press yesterday was really well-received. However, the concerns of, regarding this relationship in terms of, you know the history of this relationship still persist. People tend to see this relationship and the U.S. in this relationship as occasionally unreliable, very demanding and often a short-term friend. Addressing these concerns, how would you give your vision of a Pakistani-U.S. relationship five years from hence, irrespective of who is sitting in Washington, whether Republicans or Democrats?

Colin L. Powell: I think the American people want to have a long term relationship with Pakistan and it just doesn’t reflect the current political situation. After 9/11, however, new opportunities appeared for us to enter into a relationship, a long-termrelationship with Pakistan. And President Musharraf made then what I consider to be an historic, courageous, correct, and bold choice to join in the war against terrorism and to help us do what we had to do in Afghanistan and to decide that the Taliban was no longer something that could be supported. And over the last three years now, we have worked with Pakistan. We’ve gone beyond just the war against terror. We now have economic activities that we’re participating in and some of the things that we talked about today, debt relief, development aid for Pakistan, removing some of the sanctions that have been in place, a better military-to-military relationship. All of these are signs of a more permanent and growing relationship. So five years from now, I hope we’re still talking about more development aid. I hope we’re still talking about how we can help Pakistan improve its school system to educate young people for the demands of the 21st century. So I think everything we have done over the last several years, I hope, gives evidence to the Pakistani people that we are interested in a long-term relationship and not just for a crisis period.

Why wouldn’t we want to have a long-term relationship with Pakistan? It’s an important country. There are many Pakistani-Americans who want us to have to a long-term relationship with Pakistan. We have a good relationship with India, and there’s no reason that we should not be interested in such a relationship with Pakistan.

Nasim Zehra: We heard with interest your comments that you made in India regarding cross L.O.C. infiltration and the camps- and those are Indian concerns. Many people, do you believe, Mr. Secretary, that lasting peace between India and Pakistan is possible without a just settlement of the Kashmir issue? The way people would wonder whether lasting peace in the Middle East is possible without a just resolution of the Palestinian problem?

Colin L. Powell: Well, first of all, I’m pleased that the cease-fire along the line of control has been holding and everybody acknowledges that the incident level has gone down significantly. That’s good. And we should keep it there. We must keep it there, and particularly after the snows melt when people get nervous again.

I believe that the Kashmir issue is one that has been a problem for the two countries for over 50 years and it’s a problem that ultimately I think has to be solved. And I hope that the process that was begun by Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf in Islamabad here on the 6th of January will lead to a solution. Eight different baskets of issues were set out and Kashmir is one of them. And the ministers will be meeting all though the spring, and I know that the two foreign ministers, Foreign Minister Kasuri and Foreign Minister Sinha will get together in July.

Nasim Zehra: So if seven of those eight issues were resolved and Kashmir wasn’t resolved, do you think that there can be lasting peace in the sub-continent?

Colin L. Powell: Well, I hope that we can resolve it. I hope they can resolve it — Pakistan and India – it’s not for the United States to resolve it. We will lend our good offices to both sides. But I think as long as the Kashmir problem is out there unresolved, it will be a continuing source of tension and disagreement, hopefully not a cause of war, but it will be a continuing source of tension and disagreement.

Nasim Zehra: Mr. Secretary, moving to Afghanistan, people generally feel here that Pakistan is being unfairly blamed for the security situation in Afghanistan currently, which to some extent people would argue was of the United States’ own making when in October of 2001, after the attack on Afghanistan, removal of the Taliban, the U.S., instead of placing more troops there on the ground, relied on Afghan warlords, and today some of that is coming back to really undermine the Karzai government.

Colin L. Powell: We don’t blame Pakistan, we blame the Taliban remnants. We blame al-Qaeda for continuing to try to maintain a presence in southeastern Afghanistan and in the tribal areas of Pakistan. And what we think we have to do is not go back and examine what mistakes might have been made three years ago but work together now to defeat these Taliban elements and defeat al-Qaeda. These elements, Taliban and al-Qaeda, are a threat to Afghanistan. I submit they are also a threat to Pakistan. And what we want to do is work
with our Pakistani friends and we are conducting operations on the Afghan side of the border, and Pakistan is doing more to deal with remnants in the tribal areas. The operation the other day, I regret that there was loss of life and I extend condolences to the families of those frontier corpsmen who lost their lives, who were injured. But they’re serving the cause of freedom. They were doing the right thing.

Nasim Zehra: Mr. Secretary, when analysts here examine the reasons of
terrorism and political extremism in our region, they maintain that these are legacies of the last proxy battle of the Cold War, one that we jointly waged against Soviet occupation. But the fact that we promoted unbridled use of force and a particular ideology has in some ways come back to haunt us. What are some of the lessons the US would have drawn from that strategy?

Colin L. Powell: That dialogue is important. That dialogue is often
difficult to get started and we have seen many occasions in the history of South Asia where dialogue got started and then fell apart. And we know the history well. We don’t have to repeat it. And what I have seen in this current environment is that, with the beginning of the 6th January process, if I can call it that, not only do you have the leaders committed to it, but they see it not just ‘let’s have a summit meeting and solve all problems.’ No, let’s lay out a plan of how we go through these difficult issues. The other thing I’ve seen and I’ve seen it here in Pakistan and I saw in India, the people of India and Pakistan want this process to succeed. They do not want to return to the old days of continuing to scream at one another, shout at one another, and always having the possibility of war.

Nasim Zehra: So in terms of Afghanistan, the lessons for the U.S. and for even Pakistan would be that dialogue is the way forward on resolving issues. Mr. Secretary, on the proliferation question, some people believe that there are double standards at work, that European sellers and smugglers are really not being taken to task and the focus of your government and IAEA is really on Pakistan as opposed to the European governments.

Colin L. Powell: We are going after European parts of Dr. Khan’s network. We believe proliferation is bad from wherever it originates, whether it’s European or whether it is in Pakistan or elsewhere. I think all civilized nations have to go after this kind of proliferation activity. And the President has put forward a solid initiative recently to bring the world together and to get the UN more involved in it. But we’re not giving any of our European friends any relief from this. You’ll notice that we have put a lot of pressure on the Russian Federation to be careful about their activities with respect to Iranian nuclear developments.

Nasim Zehra: There were Dutch and German individuals involved but I want to go to another-¦

Colin L. Powell: The Dutch and German, all of the individuals in the Khan network, we are interested in, making sure that they don’t continue in this direction, and some of them are European and we’re after them.

Nasim Zehra: Mr. Secretary, many of us wonder how soon will the United States accept the well-known reality that India, Israel, and Pakistan are nuclear powers? And when would you work this reality into the NPT, which right now just acknowledges five nuclear states?

Colin L. Powell: Well, we all know that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. It’s not a debatable question. It’s a fact. NPT accession is up to India and Pakistan.

Nasim Zehra: Israel?

Colin L. Powell: Israel has not demonstrated yet in a manner that India and Pakistan have that it is or is not a nuclear power. I mean we’ve all seen the test. Both sides have declared it. so it’s not anything that can be denied. So what we are principally interested in is working with both India and Pakistan with respect to safety and security and surety, the word we use, of these weapons once you have them. And we have had meetings with our Pakistani friends about how we might be able to provide advice and assistance. We know a great deal about safety and security of nuclear weapons and we think we can offer our expertise.

Nasim Zehra: One last question, in December 2002, you yourself announced U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative, which was really welcomed in the region. But what happened then? You know you came out with an ostensibly very controversial greater Middle East Initiative and why did you do that? and why was Pakistan put into that initiative? It seems like you backtracked on that initiative, it seems-¦

Colin L. Powell: No, not at all-¦

Nasim Zehra: -¦according to media reports, so can you explain to us?

Colin L. Powell: The Middle East Partnership Initiative is alive and well, and we are providing a considerable amount of funding to it to help nations, principally in the Gulf region, the Middle East region, to fix their infrastructure, to do civil society development, to help with their educational systems.

The Greater Middle East Initiative is a way of scaling that up, to do more, and to get other industrial nations involved in helping Middle East nations to go down the path of political reform, open up their political systems so that everyone can participate, to include women. A number of these nations are doing things now, are doing just that, and so this is a way to encourage them, so people have gotten the wrong idea that we’re going to impose.

Nasim Zehra: they saw it as a unit actually-¦

Colin L. Powell: Well no, quite the contrary. But you know sometimes
leadership is mistaken for unilateralism. But the United States stepped forward and said, you know the Arabs themselves have written reports that said we’ve got to change what we’re doing. We’re not educating our young people correctly. We don’t have the kind of democracy that we ought to have and need to have. And so the United States said well ‘we can help you with that’, but it has to come from the region. The region has to want it.

Nasim Zehra: Pakistan’s involvement in it, how did that work? I mean we were surprised when you added Pakistan in the region.

Colin L. Powell: Well, I’m not sure we’ve fully decided in our discussions with the G-8 and the European Union as to how wide we should consider this program. Otherwise it’ll end up being so big that we can’t really manage it or get practical effects from it.

Nasim Zehra: That clarifies a few issues. Thank you very much Mr. Secretary of State. It’s a pleasure.

Colin L. Powell: Thank you.

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Nasim Zehra is a Fellow at the Harvard University – Asia Center. She contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Massachusetts, USA.

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