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Sunday, 26 March, 2000, 17:48 GMT
Analysis: Clinton's disappointments in South Asia

The jury is out on what the presidential trip achieved

By South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge

The dust is settling again on Delhi's freshly painted kerbstones.

The Taj Mahal has been given back to ordinary tourists.

The centre of Islamabad is no longer the fortified ghost town it was for several hours on Saturday afternoon.

US President Bill Clinton has swept through South Asia - "the most dangerous place in the world today" in his own words - and has left to return to other areas of conflict and to domestic political pre-occupation.

It is looking as if the success or otherwise of Mr Clinton's week-long visit may only really become clear after he is no longer president.

Reducing tensions

Aside from acknowledging Bangladesh's efforts to turn around its image and haul its people out of stubborn poverty, India's potential as an IT superpower and the historic friendship with Pakistan, Mr Clinton came to do what he could to reduce tension in the sub-continent and to help it fulfil its potential.

The 50-year-old Kashmir dispute, the growing nuclear capability of India and Pakistan and the poor relations between Delhi and Islamabad were therefore central to the agenda of his trip.

Clinton-mania in evidence in an Indian village
Clinton-mania was as rife as might be expected when a US president had not travelled anywhere in the region for more than two decades.

But the Americans had also cautioned against exaggerated expectations from the trip.

No concessions

Perhaps wisely so. Shortly before the Clinton circus packed up and flew out of Pakistan on Saturday, American officials conceded there has been no pledge from the military leader, General Musharraf, on curbing Pakistan nuclear weapons programme.

General Musharraf
General Musharraf gave little ground
Nor was there any commitment on signing the comprehensive test ban treaty or on taking steps on Kashmir that could make it less of a flashpoint.

Mr Clinton was given no timetable for the army to return to barracks and hand over to civilian rule - another bone of contention between Pakistan and India.

Mr Clinton had earlier left India without specific commitments on nuclear non-proliferation measures. And on Kashmir, India remained firm: "No American mediation on Kashmir thank you."

The Indian defence minister's recent prediction of another "hot summer" on the dividing line between India and Pakistan in Kashmir is a worrying prospect which if it happens would clearly cast a dark shadow over Mr Clinton's attempts to ease tension.

Perhaps the President's most urgent refrain during the week was dialogue.

Much on his mind
"Go back to the Lahore process," he urged the Indian and Pakistani leaders, praising the unconventional "bus diplomacy" of last February when Atal Bihari Vajpayee met the now ousted Nawaz Sharif.

There is no sign of Lahore Two at the moment. Foreign affairs analysts in the region do not rule out fresh behind-the-scenes contact but even with White House encouragement it looks like the long haul.

The Americans and India urged that this visit should not be viewed only through the prism of Kashmir and the differences over nuclear deterrence.

Whatever else it has achieved, the South Asia tour has left the legacy of a new level of engagement between the United States and India which President Clinton's successor will inherit.

But he will inherit the thorny issues too.

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Clinton in South Asia
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Key stories:
What did the trip achieve?
Protecting the president
South Asia's nuclear race
Clinton and the Kashmir question
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Americans eye South Asia
India's high-tech hopes
Village gets makeover
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 Kashmir: Should Clinton mediate?

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Clinton charms the press
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