Goes to India
President Bill Clinton's and his 20 year-old daughter, Chelsea, have just returned from a historic trip to South Asia. They traveled to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan hoping to improve relations between countries in the region and the U.S.
India and Pakistan are not on speaking terms at the moment- talks over the disputed territory of Kashmir broke off following clashes there last year. Nudging these two countries back to the table is critical since the threat of nuclear war hangs over the region-- both countries have recently developed nuclear weapons.
arrival in India brought together the leader of the world's largest
democracy (India) and the world's oldest democracy (U.S.). India is
roughly 1/3 the size of the U.S but it has a population over 1 billion
people. The country is expected to surpass China, as the world's most
populous nation by
President Clinton was the first president to visit the region in 22 years. The last president to do so was Jimmy Carter.
The region's nuke race
Pakistan and India have recently joined the growing list of states which have nuclear weapons. The other countries on the list include the U.K., the U.S., France, Russia, and China.
In May of 1998, India and Pakistan stunned the world with back-to-back nuclear tests. The explosions were widely condemned by the international community and resulted in U.S. economic penalties.
Although India and Pakistan have said they do not intend to conduct further nuclear tests they test missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead on a regular basis.
No one knows how many warheads each country has. Unlike Russia and the U.S., they are not bound by any treaty obliging them to reveal how many bombs they have.
Despite strong pressure
from Washington, neither country has signed the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty (CTBT), which bans nuclear test explosions. Nor have they signed
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which obliges the nuclear
powers never to transfer their nuclear
The U.S. Senate also refused to ratify the CTBT last year. The lawmakers divided largely on party lines. The main argument has been that it would be difficult to stop nations from cheating.
Relations between India and Pakistan, which have never been good, have deteriorated even further since last year's clashes in the disputed territory of Kashmir, a beautiful mountainous region the size of Kansas wedged between the two countries. Many regard this dispute as the most likely flashpoint of a nuclear war in the world.
In fact, Clinton's arrival in India was overshadowed by the brutal killing of 35 people in a village in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Why are these two countries fighting over this region? To understand the hatred behind the killings in Kashmir you have to go back to the end of the Second World War.
Just over fifty years ago, India and Pakistan emerged from what had been a British colony-- similar to what the U.S. was before the revolution. For 200 years, British rule kept conflicts between the two dominant religious communities, the Hindus and the Muslims, at bay.
Although the official transfer of power went smoothly, the partition itself -- into predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan -- pushed 10 million people out of their homes.
An unknown number of people were slaughtered-some say as many as a million -as Muslims rushed to Pakistan out of Hindu dominated India and Hindus fled from Pakistan . It was all over in a few months but the bitter memories remain.
Kashmir, formerly part of Jammu State in the north of British India, was ruled by a Hindu maharajah. It was up to him to decide which new country his state would join. In 1947, he chose India despite the fact that most people who lived in Jammu were Muslim.
Fighting between the Hindu ruling class and the Pakistani-backed Muslim majority followed his decision. A year later, the U.N. stepped in and negotiated a cease-fire, but the tension remained. There have been two other wars between the two countries since then.
Kashmir is today divided between the Pakistani area of Kashmir and the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. But Muslims have continued to protest violently. And human-rights groups have criticized the Indian troops in Kashmir for torture, rape, and killing.
Estimates of deaths since the fighting began range from 30,000 to 50,000.
Besides the fact that Kashmir has a Muslim majority, Pakistan is fighting for control of several rivers, which are important in the irrigation of the plains of Pakistan.
Pakistan and Kargil
The dialogue between the two countries broke down last year when Pakistan-backed militants clashed with Indian security forces in the Kargil region of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Fighting erupted when Indian troops encountered Pakistani infiltrators in Kargil. Indian troops expelled the intruders, but only after a two-month struggle that cost the lives of hundreds of soldiers on both sides.
And to make matters worse, the man India considers largely responsible for the Kargil conflict, General Pervez Musharraf, seized control in Pakistan in a military coup last October.
President Clinton has said the U.S. is prepared to help the two come together. But India has always resisted outsiders and says U.S. involvement would only complicate the situation further.
So Clinton visited, hoping to stay in touch with these two bitter rivals, hoping to be in a position to broker peace if needed hoping to play a role in keeping the situation from getting worse.
The president has been on 47 international trips in seven years, but this was his first to the South Asia. Chelsea, however, was on a return trip. She and her mother visited women's groups and organizations in Bangladesh in 1995 and discussed women's rights and health care.
On this trip to India, Chelsea and her Dad visited the Taj Mahal -- the burial tomb of a Muslim Persian princess. It was built in 1631, and is the most famous building in India. Chelsea also traveled to the memorial site of Mahatma Ghandi, the leader who inspired non-violent resistance, a technique used by Martin Luther King Jr.
She may no longer be a teen but she must be one of the world's youngest diplomats.
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