Clinton Has Warning for Pakistan, Aide Says


President Clinton intends to warn Pakistan’s military rulers Saturday that their “obsession” with the contested Himalayan region of Kashmir could prove “very, very damaging” to their country, possibly even leading to its collapse, a senior administration official said Thursday.

“One of the dangers in this is the failure of Pakistan,” the official said, asserting that Pakistan is too beset by internal economic and political problems to risk embroiling itself in another war with neighboring India over Kashmir.

The administration official said Clinton, who will make a one-day trip Saturday to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, will urge the country’s leaders to “create some conditions” to draw India back into negotiations over the disputed territory.

The aide said the president also intends to tell Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ousted Pakistan’s democratically elected government in an October coup, “You’ve got to decide what’s good for your own future.”

“The notion that this country is at the crossroads certainly is important to convey to Musharraf,” the senior Clinton administration official said.


Clinton has been in India since Sunday night trying to usher in a new era of cooperation and consultation between Washington and New Delhi. He made a quick trip Monday to Bangladesh--which came into being after a 1971 dispute between India and Pakistan escalated into a war.

While in Islamabad, Clinton is scheduled to address Pakistanis in a televised speech. The president will underscore the long-standing friendship and mutual support between Washington and Islamabad--and assure the Pakistanis that the U.S. won’t turn its back on them, according to the administration official.

At the same time, however, Clinton intends to tell them that their leaders have embarked on “a costly and ultimately destructive enterprise,” according to the senior administration official.

One of Clinton’s overarching goals in his meeting with Musharraf is to convey to the general that he cannot assume that the U.S. will automatically intervene in Pakistan’s behalf if a new confrontation arises between Islamabad and New Delhi, which both conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

“That perception could be quite dangerous,” said the senior administration official. Thus, it is paramount for Clinton to “disabuse” Musharraf of any such notion, which otherwise might embolden the general to provoke a crisis.

Clinton also intends to urge Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty--an act that the White House believes would exert pressure on India to follow suit.

The administration official said the president will tell Musharraf, “You’re riding the back of a tiger here,” and urge him to take some “confidence-building measures,” such as signing the treaty.

In an interview, Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, the White House national security advisor, also spoke about Clinton’s intentions in Islamabad.

“The objective is to reaffirm to the Pakistan people that we care about their future, we don’t want Pakistan to fail, to convey some hard realities to Musharraf and to talk directly to the people of Pakistan about the hard choices they face,” Berger said.

“This is a dangerous area, and we’re worried about the future of Pakistan,” he said. “And I think that, in some way, one of the great dangers in this region is the potential failure of Pakistan.”

Berger described Pakistan as “a country that is in trouble and really needs to put all of its energy into self-renewal and not into territorial conflicts. They don’t have the luxury of that.”

On Thursday night, Clinton spoke animatedly about his day’s activities in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, including a visit to the village of Nayla, where he joined women in a traditional folk dance, and a tiger-spotting safari nearby.

Asked about the rousing reception to his speech before the Indian Parliament on Wednesday--after which members surrounded him--Clinton replied with a broad smile, “I was surprised . . . and I was gratified.”