Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, March 19, 2003

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The U.S. and South Asia:
Challenges and Opportunities for American Interests
Rep. Leach Schedules Thursday Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

BACKGROUND: The post-September 11th focus on the campaign against terrorism sharply reordered U.S. foreign policy priorities in South Asia. Pakistan once again took center stage, even as momentum accelerated toward a much closer U.S.-Indian relationship. Since the Cold War, Pakistan has experienced difficult relations with the United States. Pakistan’s unstable governments, deteriorating economy, and support for terrorists, as well as nuclear and missile programs, all helped alienate American policymakers. The war on terrorism, however, has presented Pakistan with an opportunity to rekindle close relations with the United States, shed its near-pariah status, and provide some stability to its strategic position vis-a-vis India. After September 11th, Pakistan’s military regime, headed by President Pervez Musharraf, provided substantial support for the war in Afghanistan. In exchange, Washington lifted sanctions and provided economic assistance and military equipment. Defying past experience, America’s new cooperation with Pakistan has not jeopardized closer U.S. relations with India. Indeed, U.S.-India cooperation continues apace, particularly in terms of security cooperation. Yet the most important event to occur in South Asia in 2001-02 may have been the extended crisis between India and Pakistan. Following terrorist attacks during 2001 in New Delhi and Kashmir, India and Pakistan engaged in a massive military buildup and a dangerous game of nuclear brinkmanship. While the crisis has subsided for now, concerns remain that tensions may rise to dangerous levels again.

While India and Pakistan remain the focus of Washington’s renewed engagement in South Asia, there are also other concerns. In the eighteen months since most of the Nepalese royal family was gunned down in a palace massacre, Nepal has waged a battle for survival with Maoist rebels against the background of acute political instability. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, the current cease-fire and the Norwegian-brokered peace talks between the government in Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) represent the best hope for peace in seven years. The initiative is nonetheless fragile, vulnerable to deep-seated political rivalries in the Sri Lankan mainstream and deep suspicion between the negotiating partners.

WHAT: Oversight hearing: The U.S. and South Asia: Challenges and Opportunities for American Interests.

Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Rep. James A. Leach, Chairman

WHEN: 1:00 p.m., Thursday, March 20, 2003 (or upon completion of the Full Committee markup scheduled for 11:15 a.m.)

WHERE: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES: The Honorable Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State; The Honorable Wendy J. Chamberlin, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Asia and the Near East, Agency for International Development (USAID)

Questions to be raised during this hearing:

bulletHow will U.S. interests in the region be impacted by the impending military campaign in Iraq?
bulletHow should the U.S. order its priorities in Pakistan? Do the exigencies of the moment require that we identify with President Musharraf – and, by implication, the army – and value stability above all? Can Pakistan maintain stability without a strengthening of its fragile political institutions and a restoration of democracy?
bulletHow durable are U.S.-Pakistani relations? On the one hand, Pakistan’s size (it will soon become the world’s fifth most populous state), location, terrorist links, possession of nuclear weapons, and perhaps, above all, its inherent weakness make it a pivotal state in fighting terrorism and maintaining stability at the crossroads of Asia and the Middle East. On the other hand, there is reason to be concerned that President Musharraf is unable or unwilling to crack down on Pakistan’s homegrown Islamic radicals, including those operating in Kashmir.
bulletWhat is the U.S. strategy for moving the India-Pakistan relationship from one of recurring crises and the risk of nuclear war to one framed by a durable peace process?
bulletWhat do U.S. and Indian officials mean when they speak of a "natural alliance" to describe our new relationship? Can India-U.S. relations reach their full potential as long as Delhi and Islamabad are locked in a zero-sum conflict?