United States & the struggle for Tamil Eelam
US Congress International Relations Subcommittee
for Asia and the Pacific -
U.S. Policy toward South Asia
14 June 2005
Whatever may be said, who ever may say it
- to determine the truth of it, is wisdom -
Statement of Christina Rocca, Assistant
Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
Opening Statement Representative James A.
Leach, Chairman, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
also Webcast Video
Statement of Christina
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs (full
text in PDF)
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for
inviting me to join you today to discuss the United States
relationship with South Asia. This is our first opportunity
since the start of the second Bush Administration to review
what has been accomplished in the past four years and
discuss our goals for the future.
We now have an exciting window of opportunity to work with
our partners in South Asia and make truly historic progress.
Our goal is to move forward firmly and irreversibly on paths
stability, democracy, moderation and prosperity.
President Bush came to office in 2001 recognizing the
growing importance of South Asia to the United States. He
directed that the United States build stronger relationships
with all of the countries in the region. This has been
accomplished; the United States now has very active and
productive relationships with every country in South Asia.
During his second Administration, the President has made
clear his intention that we build on these already strong
relationships and move to the next level. There are
significant challenges to overcome, but the
rewards – for South Asia and the United States –
definitely make the effort worthwhile.
As we pursue our
bilateral goals, our relationship with each South Asian
country stands on its own, and I will review these
relationships shortly. We also take a regional approach on
some issues, for example seeking to improve stability by
encouraging states to overcome their differences. Since
greater prosperity and
would buttress stability and moderation,
strong economic growth in South Asia
through greater intra-regional trade and cooperation in
areas such as energy. We are supportive of the efforts by
the SAARC countries to establish the South Asian Free Trade
Area (SAFTA). We are providing assistance to these efforts
through a USAID funded high-level team of researchers who
are working with counterparts in the region to produce a
SAFTA study to support the process.
Stronger democratic institutions are a central goal for us
in South Asia. All South Asians are familiar with democracy,
and most have some degree of experience with it. But
democratic institutions are seriously challenged in parts of
the region. The United States is helping develop
democratic tools such as the rule of law,
independent media, grass roots activism,
good governance and transparency
through which these nations can address the fundamental
problems of extremism, security, and development. Their
success will bolster stability throughout the region.
Progress in South Asia will have
Our primary goal in Sri Lanka is to help that country end
more than a decade of bloody conflict between the government
and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE. The United
States continues to support
Norway’s facilitation of a peace settlement in Sri
cease-fire of 2002 is holding, although violence is
ongoing and the peace process has stalled.
This is due in part to
divisions within the Sri Lankan government and the absence of trust
between the government and the LTTE, which continues to use assassinations
and suicide bombers, underscoring their character as an organization wedded
to terrorism and justifying their designation as a Foreign Terrorist
Recovery from last
December’s tsunami preempted the peace process as the
primary concern of both parties for the past several months.
With Norwegian assistance, the parties have been negotiating
an agreement to regulate the distribution of tsunami
a Joint Mechanism, is an opportunity to build trust
between the parties and is therefore an important
contribution to the peace process should it come to
fruition. President Kumaratunga has publicly committed
herself to signing the Joint Mechanism, but
she faces serious challenges from members of her government
who oppose the mechanism.
The United States firmly supports her plan to sign the Joint
Mechanism and remains prepared, along with other donors, to
help Sri Lanka address urgent post-conflict reconstruction
Mr. Chairman, as you can see, there are many challenges as
well as opportunities for the United States in South Asia.
There have been many positive developments recently,
particularly in India and Pakistan, which give us reason for
optimism. At the same time, there are areas of real concern,
such as Nepal. But I feel confident in saying that much of
South Asia already is fulfilling some of its great potential
to be a source of stability, moderation and prosperity,
although much remains to be done for it to fully realize its
promise. We have every intention to encourage and assist
this process wherever we can. Thank you and I would be happy
to take questions.
Opening Statement Representative James A.
Chairman, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
On behalf of the Subcommittee, I would like to express a warm welcome to
Assistant Secretary Rocca and our other panel of distinguished witnesses. We
appreciate your appearance before us this morning and look forward to an
exchange of views. The hearing today is intended to review United States foreign
policy priorities in South Asia and assess related opportunities and challenges
to American interests.
Just a short decade ago, the notion that the U.S. would be deeply engaged with
virtually all countries in the region on a panoply of people-to-people,
economic, political and security concerns would have been deemed extraordinarily
unlikely by America’s foreign policy establishment. Today, America’s
increasingly close relationship with the region is not only accepted as a matter
of course but is coupled with a deep-seated desire in Washington for even warmer
There are many reasons for increased American involvement South Asia. I would
like to emphasize one: demographic trends.
According to United Nations estimates, by 2050 India will have replaced China as
the world’s most populous country with roughly 1.6 billion people.
Astonishingly, Pakistan is projected to overtake Indonesia as the world’s fourth
most populous country with 305 million (or roughly twice the population of
Russia) and Bangladesh is anticipated to be the eighth largest at about 245
million. If accurate, the implications of those projections are profound, not
only for the region and world economy but for basic social and political
stability. For these and other reasons, it is important that America pay
increasing attention to the region in the years ahead.
In this regard, the Administration’s strategic intent in South Asia is clear. It
seeks to accelerate the development of a democratic partnership with India,
maintain a stable and enduring relationship with a moderate Pakistan, and
continue to nurture respectful and mutually productive relations with the other
countries in the region. In my view, the Congress strongly supports these
While the broad outline of Administration objectives are clear, U.S. policy
approaches at any given moment will of necessity require nuanced judgments.
For example, there is virtually no dissent in Washington from the precept that
India and the United States should become natural allies with compelling
incentives over time to cooperate closely on a host of regional and global
concerns. In this regard, the Congress is looking forward to the visit by Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh later next month. I would be hopeful that the
Administration will unambiguously announce support for Indian permanent
membership on the UN Security Council at that time. We recognize, of course,
that both countries have certain divergences of view on issues ranging from
Burma and Iran to the Sudan, as well as on aspects of international trade policy
and, of course, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
With respect to Pakistan, President Musharraf’s support for the campaign against
terrorism is seminally significant. Pakistani policies may be imperfect, but
Pakistan, the U.S., and the world are better off with the development of
respectful rather than antagonistic relations between our two countries.
Turning to Nepal, it is self-evident that India, the U.S. and United Kingdom
must all continue to work together to urge reconciliation between the King and
the political parties in order bring the Maoists back to the negotiating table.
Unfortunately, however, there are few signs that the King is fully committed to
multi-party democracy. Delhi, London and Washington will have to calibrate their
Elsewhere in the region, the coalition government in Colombo continues to debate
the efficacy of a “joint mechanism” to provide tsunami relief to Tamil-majority
areas of the North and East. Agreement on such an aid mechanism could be an
important confidence building measure and catalyst for the stalemated peace
process. Turning to Bangladesh, while America continues to seek strengthened
relations with this historically moderate Muslim-majority country, there are
troubling signs of growing political violence and deteriorating governance.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the plight of Bhutanese refugees in
Nepal. Tragically and inexcusably, a major humanitarian impasse has developed in
which for 14 years somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have
been kept idle and lingering in seven camps in eastern Nepal. It is long past
due for the international community to develop a durable solution to this