TIME: What did you make of President Bill Clinton's recent visit to South Asia? Did it change the way India and the U.S. relate to each other? And did it change the way Pakistan and the U.S. relate to each other?
Hussain: Clinton's visit marked a change in India's relations with the U.S. The U.S. sent out a clear message that India matters much more than before. But this change did not begin with his visit. The visit was the middle point in the process of this change. I attribute this not merely to the end of the Cold War but to the advent of globalization. Globalization, activated by technology, has been able to bring about a change of mind, not only in India, but in America and in the minds of some of our neighbors. So when Clinton came here, it was really the announcement of the arrival of the new era and the consequences of globalization. I also think that the American interest in the area of geopolitics is undergoing a big change. The end of the Soviet Union and the developments in NATO--the way in which the governments of Eastern Europe are acting and reacting--made a lot of difference to the Pentagon's point of view. They are no longer obsessed only with the Atlantic and Europe. Their mind is now shifting towards the East--to Central Asia, the subcontinent and the Pacific. They already had interests in the Pacific but that interest is becoming sharper with China's growing military power.
Hussain: Pakistan today is not as important to the U.S. as it was when the Soviet Union was a force, or when the struggle for power was going on within Afghanistan. But if anybody thinks that Pakistan will be dumped by America, they will be totally wrong. The U.S. would not like to give up a friendship that goes back to the Nixon era. One of the other reasons for the change in the U.S. view of Pakistan is fundamentalism, allied with the politics of terrorism. Americans see a great religion deteriorating because of its alliance with terrorism. They don't condemn Pakistan on religious grounds, but they have certainly got some very strong reasons to believe that Pakistan is going the wrong way when it, under whatever name, shields terrorism. They would not like to see the Talibanization of Pakistan. But to think that they have changed their political attitude towards Pakistan because they are more inclined to support India... that would be a very cheerful thought for me, but it would not be logically correct.
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.
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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