May 28, 1998The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
Pakistan responded to India's nuclear tests of two weeks ago by detonating five nuclear devices of its own. Following a background report, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States defends his country's actions. Also, India's ambassador to the U.S. offers his country's response and National Security Advisor Samuel Berger presents the American reaction. View a timeline of the India-Pakistan conflict.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, the view of the United States. It comes from President Clinton' national security adviser, Samuel Berger. Mr. Berger, welcome.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
A timeline of the India-Pakistan conflict.
May 28, 1998
The Pakistani ambassador defends his country's actions.
May 28, 1998
The Indian ambassador discusses Pakistan's tests.
May 26, 1998
Pakistan gears up nuclear tests of its own.
May 14, 1998
Jim Lehrer asks a Pakistani government official if a nuclear arms race is on the way between his country and India.
May 13, 1998
India conducts a second round of nuclear tests.
May 12, 1998
A discussion on India's decision to test nuclear weapons.
Read what some experts had to say about the recent elections in India.
March 19, 1998:
A discussion on how to reduce nuclear proliferation.
March 4, 1998
The BJP wins elections in India.
January 6, 1998
President Clinton announces a new strategy to deter nuclear war.
December 4, 1997
Two retired generals call for an immediate reduction of nuclear arms.
August 17, 1997
Pakistan turns 50.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the military and Asia.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization .
SAMUEL BERGER, National Security Adviser: Thank you, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: So, what is your analysis of where we sit here tonight?
"The words of the two ambassadors are soothing, but the actions of their two governments are very troubling."
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, the words of the two ambassadors are soothing, but the actions of their two governments are very troubling. I don't think the people of India or the people of Pakistan are more secure tonight than they were last night or a week ago by virtue of the tests that both sides have conducted. They entered a new phase in a really self-defeating cycle, which can only add to the danger in the peninsula, divert resources from desperately needed human needs of their people, and incur the indignation and the sanctions of the international community. So, clearly, you know, they have embarked upon a course here, which is deeply troubling. What needs to happen now is for both parties to renounced further tests, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans tests, to work to reduce tensions in the region, and reverse this dangerous arms race. And we intend to do everything that we can to bring that about.
JIM LEHRER: Can you add anything to this report I asked the Pakistani ambassador about that Pakistan was prepared to do even a more-to conduct another test fairly soon?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I would hope that they would not. They have -- the ambassador has indicated that that's not their intention. I think what they should do is renounce further tests and embark upon a process of de-escalation, rather than a process of increasingly dangerous escalation.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Berger, how did it come to this?
Origins of the India-Pakistan conflict.
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, there has been--the underlying tensions in this region go back to the origins of India and Pakistan and certainly for 25 years. And ultimately, we have to deal with the underlying causes of the conflict, which are territorial and religious and otherwise. But part of that is to deal with the escalation and proliferation, which has now entered a new phase, and to bring the international community together, to make it very clear that these countries will be increasingly isolated if they embark on this course. You know, the world is moving in the other direction. A hundred and forty-nine nations have signed a comprehensive test ban treaty. In recent years Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, Khazakstan have given up their nuclear weapons programs. The President said earlier they're making -- they're starting the 21st century by making the same costly mistakes of the 20th century. This does not make their people more secure, safer. It makes that region more dangerous, and their people more impoverished.
JIM LEHRER: Did the U.S. drop the ball somewhere along the line here in not making the case to India and Pakistan before it was too late?
SAMUEL BERGER: No. I think we have repeatedly made the case both to India and to Pakistan in very forceful terms. Certainly, since this new government came into power earlier this year-
JIM LEHRER: In India?
SAMUEL BERGER: India -- on numerous occasions at numerous levels we have strenuously urged them not to embark upon nuclear tests. The President has, in recent days, spoken to Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan on a number of occasions -- and made the argument that -- as he did today publicly-that Pakistan had a unique opportunity to rise above this moment by foregoing tests and changing the entire nature of its relationship with the United States and the world, and they made a grave mistake by not seizing that opportunity.
JIM LEHRER: But why don't we have clout with these two countries? Why don't we have enough clout to keep these things from happening?
SAMUEL BERGER: I think we have to recognize, Jim, that in many regions of the world a fundamental dynamic -- whether it is in the Middle East, whether it is in South Asia, whether it is Northern Ireland -- the fundamental dynamic is driven by national and regional forces. The international community can try to bring its weight to bear. We imposed very strong sanctions on India. We intend to impose those same sanctions on Pakistan. They will be hurtful sanctions in terms of those two countries. And other countries have done the same -- Japan, Australia, the European Union has said it will vote to defer loans in the World Bank, which are desperately needed by these countries. And I hope that over time they will see that by a combination of the injury done to their own people and the illogic of security through escalation, that they will reverse course.
JIM LEHRER: Is anybody in the U.S. Government or in the international community generally trying to get the representatives -- at the highest levels the representatives of India and Pakistan to sit down in the next 24 hours, in the next few days to try to keep this thing cool right now?
SAMUEL BERGER: There are a number of efforts that are ongoing. Secretary Albright has been in Luxembourg today. You showed a clip earlier from Secretary-General Solana at that meeting. She's been in discussions with our allies and friends. We would hope that collectively we would be able to bring the parties together and bring the international community together around an agenda, which is to de-escalate, rather than escalate.
JIM LEHRER: But this thing is a serious matter, is it not?
"It is a more dangerous situation today than it was a week or two weeks ago."
SAMUEL BERGER: It is a more dangerous situation today than it was a week or two weeks ago. This is a longstanding dispute. But I think with each step, each side says it's correcting an asymmetry. Unfortunately, asymmetries are in the eye of the beholder, and they tend to be on the other side of the fence. With each step of this arms race in a very volatile region, it becomes a more dangerous situation.
JIM LEHRER: Well, you heard what the Pakistani ambassador said and other leaders of Pakistan have said the same thing, that if the United States and the international community had reacted more strongly against India when it did its test, that maybe Pakistan might not have done this?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, you know, we imposed the most strenuous actions against India that I think we've ever imposed against any country in the history of the United States under the Glenn Amendment. And other countries -- Japan, Canada, Australia, the European Union -- also took action. I think for the government of Pakistan to try to deflect criticism by blaming this on the international community is to absolve itself of responsibility for its own actions. I think the fact is both these governments have made a grave mistake in terms of what makes their own people more secure, what will make a better future for their own people, and we will do everything we can to try to reverse that cycle.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a right and a wrong here? The Indians cited the threat to their security from Pakistan and from China in conducting the tests initially. Pakistan has cited the India tests as a threat to their security and what they did. Who's right? Who's wrong? Or is there a right or a wrong?
"One side didn't start this problem; one side can't stop it."
SAMUEL BERGER: As Lyndon Johnson used to say, you can argue it round or you can argue it flat. The fact of the matter is both sides have contributed to this arms race. Both sides are going to have to make a commitment to engage in a process of first freezing things where they are and ultimately deescalating both the underlying tensions and the proliferation itself. One side didn't start this problem; one side can't stop it.
JIM LEHRER: Are you hopeful that it can be stopped?
SAMUEL BERGER: It's been going on for a long time. I think it has entered a new phase that is very troubling. And I hope that the other nations of the international community will see that. And we certainly will waste -- will spare no effort in trying to bring the will of the international community to bear and to bring the parties together.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Mr. Berger, thank you very much.
|Support the kind of journalism done by the NewsHour...Become a member of your local PBS station.|