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India deserves a place in UNSC: Albright

In an interview with Hindustan Times, former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright favoured India becoming a permanent member of UN Security Council because of its "power and size".

india Updated: Dec 14, 2003 02:29 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, now in India in connection with the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative, feels that the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has taken the right steps to resolve India’s problems with Pakistan. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, she maintains that India need not wait for a democratic regime to come to power in Pakistan before the two countries begin negotiations. “You deal with what you have,” she says. Excerpts:

Q. Should India get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council?

A. When I was in the Clinton administration we spent a lot of time on security council expansion. It was a very complicated issue. I guess I believe that India, for many reasons, should be a permanent member because of its power, its size.

But it has to resolve its problems with Pakistan. We don't particularly want permanent members of the Security Council that have permanent enmity with their neighbours. None of the other P-5 have such problems with an immediate member. But I have said I think India should be a permanent member.

Q. How should India deal with its neighbour Pakistan, a dictatorship, with WMD and terrorists?

A. Prime Minister Vajpayee has taken some important steps to get dialogue going and make some movement to a different relationship with Pakistan. I would support that.

I also think the United States should make it clear there should be some kind of calendar for the return of some form of democracy in Pakistan.

Q. Should India then wait to deal with a democratic regime in Pakistan?

A. No. The United States dealt with Khruschev and Brezhnev. You deal with what you have. It's impossible in normal circumstances for one country to choose the leader of another.

The way Prime Minister Vajpayee is approaching the issue is to be applauded at this stage. I hope very much that the Pakistani responds. I think the important part generally is that there needs to be more dialogue with President Pervez Musharraf. But I think there needs to something from the US side saying that there needs to some movement on democracy, that democracy returns to Pakistan.

In the end, India doesn't have much choice. It's a neighbour India has, and it's a potentially dangerous relationship. Prime Minister Vajpayee is taking the right step.

Q. What is your opinion on Indo-US relations?

A. I am very proud of the fact that the change in the Indo-US relationship came about under President Clinton. He came here and that was really the beginning of the flowering of the relationship. And I would really like to see the US build on that.

I am quite intrigued by what I have heard at the Peace Dividend conference on greater regional cooperation. And I would hope that this was an opportunity that the US might want to support. I found Prime Minister Vajpayee's speech on December 12 very interesting.


Q. What is your view of US policy in Iraq right now?

A. I am troubled by the fact it is taking so long to a secure situation in Iraq. I have said I agree on the why for the Iraqi war. I agreed with how President George W Bush talked about the problem of Saddam Hussein. All the things he said about him I believed to be true.

But I did not understand why we had to have a war now. This was a war of choice. And I also did not think that the post-war plan had been well thought out. I was worried about the chaotic situation.

I now believe it is absolutely essential that we all together win the peace. I am hoping that there will be international support for trying to create and sustain a democratic Iraq.

Q. What role would you like India to play?

A. I know that India has been giving some non-military support to the situation in Iraq. I would have hoped that they might have been willing to send some forces to help create a better security situation. I don't know enough about the negotiations that went on. This is true not only for India.

Despite the fact that I disagree with the timing of this war, that I disagree with the planning was done, we are where we are and it is a dangerous situation. It is not just a threat to the region or the United States, but to everyone.

Q. How would you assess Bush's foreign policy?

A. I have been very interested with what President Bush has been saying about democracy and the speech he gave supporting democracy. The speech he recently gave at the National Endowment for Democracy was the one I would generally agree with. I just don't know how he would translate words into actions.

But I have generally been critical of the Bush administration's foreign policy. I am someone who believes in multilateralism when possible. While there may be times when unilateralism maybe necessary, I don't think enough diplomatic effort went into getting more support for our actions. I am very troubled by a variety of survey material that indicates the United States has lost a lot of credibility.

So I am troubled by then Bush administration's policies. Not only the unilateral but also the unidimensional aspect of its foreign policy.

Q. What do you mean by unidimensional?

A. I mean that he has not paid enough attention to other parts of the world. Bush has been overly focussed on Iraq and not enough on Afghanistan. But I definitely support fighting terrorism. I think that was something very high on President Clinton's agenda. It was President Bush who had to react to 9/11 and I think he had to fight terrorism.

But I think Iraq was a war of choice.

Q. So you are saying the Iraq war has nothing to do with the war on terrorism?

A. I do now. I didn't initially. There wasn't much to link Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But now there seems to be more outsider fighters in Iraq though the numbers are unclear and it is now a place where we have to fight terrorists.

Q. What about Bush's argument that going into Iraq was partly about pre-empting terrorists from getting WMD?

A. I didn't see it that way. I was willing to believe that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq because they hadn't all been accounted for when we left office or when the United Nations inspectors had left in 1998. But I didn't think they were an imminent threat. So I didn't see why we had to invade Iraq at that particular time.

Q. Is democratisation via military rule in Iraq possible?

A. I don't think you can impose democracy, I think you have to offer democracy. I think we believe that we are all the same. And that everyone does want to make decisions about his or her life. It begins with the desire to control where you live, where you go to school and what job you have. And this then extends to making larger decisions in the political sphere. But this has to come from the bottom up. You can't impose democracy.

So while I am sure the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, I don't think you can order up a democracy in a short period of time in Iraq. It can be done, however, there are a lot of things being done to allow the Iraqis to vote, to write their constitution.


Q. Will there be a difference in US foreign policy if a Democratic president is elected next November?

A. I think there will be a different approach to the international system. What has troubled me has been the Bush administration's lack of interest in the international structures that have been built up over the last 50 years whether is the alliance structures to the United Nations.

From everything I hear from the Democratic candidates they understand better the importance of having a variety of such structures, and the United States being more a part of the international system rather than outside of it.

I think there is a general belief among the Democrats that the normal way for countries to relate to each other is by diplomatic avenues; that treaties offer the best way for relationships. You negotiate treaties. It doesn't mean you have to agree with every part of them. They have a different view of the United Nations and the possibility of using multilateral action.

Q. Would a Democratic presidency also mean a revival of the CTBT?

A. The CTBT is something that I have heard all of them say they would like to see it come back to life. The problem is that would depend not only on a Democratic president but also Democratic control of the US Senate. It's hard to predict, but people have talked about the importance of going back to the CTBT.

India was very difficult during the talks leading up to the CTBT. I think that we need to develop a consensus on the fact that we don't need to continue to test nuclear weapons. And that the CTBT provides a very good vehicle for such a consensus. India had some specific problems with the treaty, but I don't know if the same specific problems will come up again.

Q. What should be US foreign policy's priorities?

A. I obviously think fighting terrorism is the major issue especially as its linked to the lack of control over various components of WMDs. Because the arms bazaar is also filled with conventional weapons and other things that one reads about, things coming out of the former Soviet Union and Afghanistan. That linkage, what I call "the devil's marriage" between terrorism and technology is the major issue to worry about.

Going back to the loose weapons, I believe the non-proliferation system has completely fallen apart. I believe there are some real questions as how viable the various parts of the NPT are. Look at what is happening about North Korea and Iran. I am slightly optimistic about developments in Iran. But I am pessimistic about North Korea.


Q. We are also forgetting about the millions of people who are still dying from HIV-AIDS. We talk a lot about people dying fighting terrorism. Those dying from HIV-AIDS need more attention.

A. I also believe there are many environmental issues, especially climate issues, that also need to be watched. I have also been very interested in statements that the UN secretary general has made about the huge numbers of people migrants and refugees. These are the international homeless.

Q. You have written warningly about Saudi Arabia.

A. We need to press more on reforms within the Saudi Arabian royal family. They have to know there are increasing questions about how things are operating in Saudi Arabia and that we have to figure out ways to open up the system.

Q. How do you view the recent Russian presidential elections?

A. There are some real questions being asked about the pre-election tactics, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for example, in the Russian presidential elections. A great deal of power has been put in the hands of Vladimir Putin and his party.

While it is important for Russians to have some stability and regularity in their lives, I have written in my memoirs that I have some questions about Putin's democratic instincts. I have questions about how the press is being treated in Russia and the way to find military solutions to what is going on in Chechnya. I don't think that's the way to resolve the latter issue.

It's a mixed bag, Putin has done some important things in terms of economic reforms and reforming the taxing system. But there are questions about the gathering of, the centralization of power and how the smaller political parties failed to make it into parliament. It is a centralization of power that needs to be watched very carefully.

Q. You've held the highest post held by a woman in the US. What was your reaction to seeing so many South Asian political leaders at this conference?

A. I have to say I was shocked to see Sonia Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto and myself described in the newspapers this morning by what we wore. It made me think not much has changed. But I am always glad to see women in positions of power.

First Published: Dec 14, 2003 00:00 IST