Indian Ambassador to the United States Abid Hussain is a multidisciplinary
scholar and commentator. He is also Special Rapporteur for the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights on the promotion and protection of
the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and is a member of the
UN advisory board on sustainable development. He spoke with TIME Asia
associate editor Aparisim Ghosh in New Delhi recently. Excerpts from their
How about Pakistan's relations with the U.S?
Hussain: These are two extreme views. But I can tell you that, for the Americans, one friendship will not be at the expense of another friendship. They would like to be close to both India and Pakistan. It's not as if they have to push out Pakistan to get into India. At the same time, India and Pakistan must understand that nuclear weapons really irritate the American mind. Since both of us have the 'bomb,' they worry about the prospect of a nuclear war. They would like to get into this particular area to prevent proliferation and any confrontation between India and Pakistan.
TIME: Can the Americans play referee on the nuclear issue without also mediating on the Kashmir issue, as Pakistan wants? Clinton said he was unwilling to take on that role.
Hussain: Yes and no. Clinton knows that India would not like a third party to mediate in Kashmir. This is because India has its own experience of Partition, where the presence of a third party created all sorts of trouble. It is the nature of things that, when there's a third party involved, you are not able to resolve all issues. But if there were to be mutually acceptable positions of dialogue, it is just possible that we might be able to find solutions to our problems. And I must make it very clear that, while it appears that the Indian case has been accepted by Clinton, if you go deeper into what he said, it isn't so. All he said is, 'Don't rub off the Line of Control in Kashmir with blood. See to it that the line is kept intact and that no military attempts are made to undo that.' The Americans have not said that the dispute over Kashmir is settled in favor of India. They have also not said that the territory belongs to Pakistan. They're saying, 'Don't disturb the status quo,' as well as, 'Try to solve this between yourselves because third-party intervention is neither desirable nor possible.'
TIME: It's been 50 years and the two countries have been singularly incapable of solving this issue themselves. What new developments would need to take place for that to change?
Hussain: It is naive to think that all problems that exist between the two countries can be resolved within a time limit. There are issues that transcend the time given to us to resolve them. But, at the same time, I feel that the forces of globalization are making boundaries meaningless. We're entering a very different era where perhaps things can be resolved in a much easier fashion than before. I believe that when Pakistan has a growth rate of about 10-12%, as well as a democratic form of government, then the possibility of these two countries coming closer would improve a lot. I may be wrong, but it is my feeling that the Pakistani establishment, the forces that command power, have a stake in keeping the two countries on the warpath. It really helps them to make their people believe that their major preoccupation is to be wary of India, which might invade and do away with their nation-state. This sense of insecurity and suspicion will disappear when they realize that their economy can grow faster with a democratic government. The thesis of the End of History is based on the idea that democracies don't go to war with each other. So if we have two democracies with fast-growing economies, problems like Kashmir will be handled in a better environment than what is available to us today.
TIME: Are you confident that the two sides won't go over the precipice before then?
Hussain: They won't. Since both countries have the 'bomb,' they will be obliged to think much more carefully before setting it off. The possession of equal types of arms is usually a deterrent.
TIME: Let's get back to India's relations with the U.S. What happens next? Do you see the Americans taking a greater security position in South Asia?
Hussain: There are two factors to be kept in mind, security and economics (trade, finance, technology). America is very interested in the Indian market. There are 300 million people in India's middle class--more than the total population of France and England put together. This isn't something America is prepared to leave for the industrial and corporate sector of Europe to exploit. The Americans would like to hold the advantage in this growing market. America always considers the financial and the market interest to be much more important than any other interest. The Clinton visit was preceded by big corporate names taking an interest in India; it was Bill Gates who opened the door to India much faster than the diplomats. Indians living in America also played an important role, just as the overseas Chinese really brought America into China.
TIME: But do you see the U.S. taking a security position in South Asia?
Hussain: Yes, but it is secondary. Where security issues are concerned, America concentrate more on the Pacific, where they need to checkmate China by having a naval presence. They can also checkmate by taking more interest in Central Asia. But they know for certain that they cannot play the India card against China. India has its problems with China, but would not like to become a card in that particular game. We too would like China not to become too aggressive; to concentrate more on economic growth and political development rather than military development. But we will not get into a game of military blocks.
TIME: Let's talk about Pakistani-American relations. What's the next step there?
Hussain: Pakistan will have to come to terms with some of America's demands because its economy is very much dependent on what the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and America do. Pakistan can't be rescued by Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf countries; their help is important, the money that comes from those particular countries cannot be ignored, but it is nothing compared to what Pakistan needs in terms of finance and technology, which is only available in America. Therefore America will have a much stronger say in determining the Pakistani point of view than it could in India.
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