THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 22, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE RICK INDERFURTH
The Loew's Hotel New York, New York
4:45 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Assistant Secretary Inderfurth is moments away and will be able to give you a briefing. I just wanted to make sure there is nothing else hanging on other subjects before that.
Q Do you know if Nancy Reagan is going to be at Carmen tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: We've heard that rumor and we have not seen anything or heard anything that substantiates it, but we're checking now. We don't have any knowledge of it, but invitations to this evening's operatic event are at the invitation of the Metropolitan. We hadn't heard anything about that, though.
Q Do you know if the President is likely to have a chance to visit with the Mayor at Carmen?
MR. MCCURRY: He may have an opportunity, but there are various advance people scurrying around to try to keep them apart from each other. We'll see how successful they are. (Laughter.) Just local politics.
Q -- three nuclear countries that haven't signed the test ban, is that right? Israel, Pakistan and India?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that -- well, our assessment of their nuclear programs we provide in various ways, but not publicly. But that's right.
Q Have you been asked yet today about what the White House is doing to ensure the privacy of beeper communications for the White House staff?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no one has asked that, and that has come up because of some reports that have occurred and some transmissions that have -- interesting in flavor that have been made available. When any White House staffer comes on board we get a briefing about communications and about the risks that the Secret Service perceives -- a certain type of transmissions over the public airwaves. That's true of cell phones, that's true of pagers and beepers.
First and foremost, every White House person who has got access to classified information knows that you should not ever transmit any classified material either by cellular phone, non-protected phone, or by beeper. That is drilled into us fairly well. And as a general proposition, we are alerted to the sensitivity of all electronic communications -- walkie-talkies, cellular phones, and beepers. And I think there are probably some staffers who now had a fairly painful reminder that these are indeed public transmissions. So their private matters are now more widely known. It probably will be a useful deterrent.
Q When you say reminders, so that it did actually happen?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's no reason for us to believe that some of the material that's been reported upon are not authentic transmissions. But I think, as you can also see from the transcripts, they don't deal with national security matters.
Q But is there a policy memo going out to staffers to remind them of this?
MR. MCCURRY: I think this has been a reminder to all White House staffers that they need to be both discreet and professional in their communications of whatever sort. Flowery letters with perfume tend to work a lot better. (Laughter.)
Q Mark is asking if there will be any memo to the staff when they get their beepers to remind them --
MR. MCCURRY: I think staffers are routinely reminded of their obligations with respect to communication. I'm not aware of any particular step, but as I say, I think the reporting on these particular intercepts probably served as good a purpose as a memo.
Q Are you going to be releasing the transcripts of that --
MR. MCCURRY: I think they are widely available and they're being read far and wide. (Laughter.)
Q Any of them yours? Any of the messages yours?
MR. MCCURRY: No, unfortunately, not.
Q One more real quick. On the Mir spacecraft, does the President believe that the launch will take place as scheduled with Astronaut Wolf on board?
MR. MCCURRY: The President believes that Administrator of NASA Dan Goldin has a very methodic review process which will tomorrow lead to what's called the L-2 review, based on the best information and assessment made. Some of you know that Administrator Goldin is now with Vice President Gore in Moscow for the Gore-Chernomrydin Commission meetings, and I'd really prefer to defer to him since he has been actively engaged with his Russian counterparts on all sorts of questions related to U.S.-Russian Federation space cooperation.
It's an important program, to the President, to the administration, to the American people, but also, first and foremost, the security and safety of our personnel in space has to be considered and is considered as part of this review process. And the President is confident that it is a good review process that leads to decisions that are taken at NASA.
Without further ado, Assistant Secretary of State Inderfurth.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Hi. This is a little bit of -- my goodness, a lot of interest. (Laughter) This is a little bit of a rip and read. We just concluded the meeting, and I just walked over here from the Waldorf. So let me, if I could, just give you some of the highlights of the meeting, on the same basis that we're discussing from this podium.
It was a very cordial, warm, thoughtful discussion between the President and the Prime Minister. I think you can get the list of attendees, but it included on the U.S. side the Secretary of State, National Security Adviser Berger, U.N. Ambassador Richardson, Under Secretary Pickering, a list of about seven or eight on the U.S. side. On the Indian side, Finance Minister Chidambaram, Ambassador Chandra, Foreign Secretary Raghunath, and the Prime Minister's Office -- head of his office, Mr. Vohra. So it was a very well attended meeting. And again, I think that the best way to describe it was very cordial and thoughtful.
The President began the meeting by expressing his great appreciation to the Prime Minister for adjusting his schedule so the two of them could get together. He knew that this was not the easiest of things to do because the Prime Minister was to speak to the General Assembly later, so he expressed appreciation for that.
He also expressed his appreciation to the very fine hospitality the First Lady and daughter Chelsea had received on their visit to India in 1995. The President expressed how grateful he had been for the hospitality shown and how much they had enjoyed that trip. And, of course, he said that he was very much looking forward to coming next year to India.
The President said that there is a great feeling in our country for India. He said there is a sense we have let too many opportunities go by and that he very much wants to deepen our relations. He also talked about the very important contributions Indian Americans are making to this country and again pointed to the need to further and strengthen our relations. Prime Minister Gujral said in response to this that this was exactly the right time to do these things and he was in complete agreement.
The discussion ranged across a wide variety of issues, economic issues, U.S. investment. Both noted that the United States is the largest investor in India as well as the largest trading partner. I think both leaders want to see that continued and strengthened.
There was discussion -- indeed, the President commended the Prime Minister for the so-called Gujral Doctrine, which relates to India's relationship to its neighbors. And they discussed the border sharing agreement with Bangladesh and other such agreements that have made the Gujral Doctrine concrete in the region.
They obviously discussed the attempts to put the Indo-Pak dispute behind. The President said that we are very careful not to interfere in any way with the issues you have with Pakistan, but he made it clear that the U.S. very much supports the dialogue that is under way.
There was also discussion about SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. For those of you who are not well versed in SAARC, this is a regional cooperation among the countries there that got a great deal of push forward by the summit in the Maldives in May. And they discussed how that could be a further development in the region.
Going back for a moment -- again, things didn't always go just from one to the next -- they went back for a moment to the question of the Indo-Pak dialogue. And the Prime Minister made it clear that -- he said, we are trying to solve our problems. It will take time, he said, but we are trying to solve our problems. Again, that certainly was supported by the President.
The President also said that we need to have greater cooperation on disarmament issues. They had a discussion about CTBT, whether or not it would be possible to arrive at a common agenda on disarmament issues. And this was something that they discussed for a time and the Prime Minister explained the Indian point of view, which is well known, on these issues, including CTBT.
But most importantly, and I think this is why I said that this was a cordial and productive meeting, the Prime Minister said at the end, we would be pleased to engage you in discussion on these things.
So, again, they were having a discussion, which is precisely what we had hoped would be the outcome of this meeting, that they would begin a discussion which they will be continuing for several months ahead, including the President's visit to the region. The President also mentioned, of course, that the Secretary of State will be traveling there later this year, and Under Secretary Pickering will be going in October and we have at least two, if not more, Cabinet members -- Commerce Secretary Daley, HHS Secretary Shalala. So we have a very full and, I think, rich agenda that we'll be covering with Indians in the months ahead.
So for those of us sitting in on the meeting, it was enjoyable. And I think that's the highlights. And I'll try to respond to questions.
Q Do you take the Prime Minister's statement that he would be willing to discuss the comprehensive test ban treaty as an opening that might lead to India signing it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Well, I'm not sure that we have any new opening here. What we do have is certainly an agreement on the part of the two leaders that our countries will continue to discuss these issues. Clearly, we have differences. Clearly, the United States feels very strongly about this and that was made clear in the President's remarks in the General Assembly. But, again, we want to have a full relationship with India across the board and the issue of nonproliferation will certainly be a very important of that.
Q The briefer said that the President assured the Prime Minister that the U.S. does not want to interfere in the Indo-Pak dialogue. But did the word Kashmir come up or was the word Kashmir just kept out completely?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: I think that -- again, I feel reluctant to go into each and every issue that they covered. It was a discussion of the Indo-Pak dialogue. Some things can certainly be understood without being stated explicitly. We all know what we're talking about here. We all know what the disagreements are. So this was a statement by the President of his strong support for trying to pursue a discussion between the two countries that will lead -- and again, going back to the briefing that I held earlier -- it will lead to a resolution of this and a look into the future, which, again, was certainly the thrust of what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the President earlier today.
Q Mr. Inderfurth, did Prime Minister Gujral press the President on and define his views on the expansion of the Security Council, and also India's probable case as far the Security Council is concerned?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: That issue has been discussed quite recently, including on my visit to the region. It has been discussed in a variety of different meetings. It did not come up at this meeting. The thrust was on those areas that I mentioned. I fully expect that we will hear over the next two weeks here in New York in the various meetings that we'll be attending, I expect we'll hear a great deal more about that. But it did not come up at the meeting.
Q How long was the meeting?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Thirty minutes plus.
Q I'd just like to follow on another question --is that to say that Kashmir was discussed at the meeting?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: No, Kashmir -- this is -- everyone here, I'm sure is well aware of the sensitivity of this issue. What was discussed there -- the two leaders were talking about the future of the region. Everyone understands the issues that have existed between the two countries. They were talking about the future and talking about trying to move forward. As I said earlier, the President said we do not intend to interfere in this, but gave his strong support for the two countries trying to address those difficult issues of which we know Kashmir is one.
Q What is the future of the region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: I'm sorry.
Q What is the future of the region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: What is the future of the region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Hopefully, we'll see a future that is peaceful and prosperous, and I think things are moving in that direction. But again, this is something that the United States very wants much to see. The President's clear interest and involvement with South Asia is evident by his two bilateral meetings today. And it's an engagement that we all intend to pursue over the months ahead.
Q Is it correct to say that the main focus of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the President was bilateral and as was indeed indicated by a senior official in Washington earlier, in other words, the main focus was bilateral with others also being thrown in?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Oh, I think that's fair to say. The main focus was bilateral and there was a great deal of interest in that meeting on the economic side of the relationship. The Finance Minister took part in the discussion by talking about India's rate of growth, the desire for greater investment, the steps that are being taken to attract foreign investment. So I think that, yes, the primary focus, the main focus, was on the bilateral agenda.
Q One quick question on the U.S. policy on Kashmir. You regard Kashmir as a disputed territory under the U.N. resolution on one hand, and on the other hand, the President takes a stand on non-interference on Kashmir -- India and Pakistan.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Well, I think that our position on Kashmir is well-known and I think we have our press officers that are available that can give you the full statement of our position on Kashmir. Again, what I think the leaders have attempted to do today in the meeting that I just attended was to talk about where the future can lead, a desire to move, as the President said in his address in the General Assembly, toward the future; to be able to envision a future that is not tied to all the problems in the past. I mean, that was the thrust of what we were doing today.
Q Prime Minister Gujral said today in his address to the U.N. -- proposed negotiations with India on a treaty, nonaggression treaty.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: I haven't seen the Prime Minister's speech. I look forward to reading that. But again, we will very much be interested in knowing and hearing what the Indian view is of that. I think that this is -- steps can be taken between the two sides that build confidence. Steps have been taken in the past, confidence-building measures. But I'll be interested in seeing what he proposed, but again, I'll be most interested in knowing what the Indian reaction to that is.
Q Did the issue of Kashmir come up directly in the Nawaz talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Directly?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: There was not a discussion about Kashmir. The Prime Minister of Pakistan did raise Kashmir, but there was not a discussion about the subject of Kashmir. Again, the discussion had to do with moving forward in the dialogue and the next round of the Foreign Secretary's talks and the need to move forward on that.
So the Prime Minister of Pakistan did raise the issue of Kashmir and discussed it and expressed his views. But in terms of the President, it was a discussion that talked about the dialogue itself.
Q What about F-16s?
Q Did the President respond?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: I mentioned F-16s earlier. The President said that he's working hard on that.
Q In these two meetings there was more discussion about nuclear nonproliferation in the region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: No. I just said that in the meeting I just attended with the President and the Prime Minister, that the President said that we wanted to have greater cooperation on the disarmament issues, and that certainly includes nonproliferation. I was asked earlier today whether or not the CTBT had come up with the meeting with the President and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and I had said it did not. It did come up in this meeting that we just attended.
Of course, Pakistan has signed -- or voted for the CTBT, so that's perhaps why that was not raised in that meeting.
Q Did the Indian Prime Minister make it clear that he wanted the differences with Pakistan and in particular Kashmir to be treated exclusively as a bilateral issue with no third party -- no role for a third party? And did he make a reference to differences on the working group in the last -- that were triggered in the last round of talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: No. There was no discussion about the working group. Again, that is something being dealt with by the parties themselves. And again, I'll simply repeat what the President said with respect to the Indo-Pak dialogue -- he said we are very careful not to interfere in any way with the issues you have with Pakistan. So, having said that, there would be no reason then for the Prime Minister to have a rejoinder.
END 5:07 P.M. EDT