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Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan

June 06, 1989

The President. Well, it was a special pleasure for Barbara and me to welcome Prime Minister Bhutto to the White House this morning. In fact, our relationship goes back to 1971, when she attended Harvard and came with her dad to the United Nations. And I have often remarked that her father's 1971 appeal was literally one of the most moving speeches that I ever heard at the United Nations. And more recently, we met in Tokyo last February, where I believe that we were the most newly elected heads of government.

Pakistan and the United States have enjoyed a long history of good relations -- friends since the time that Pakistan became an independent nation. And I welcome this opportunity to reaffirm those ties and to reassure the Prime Minister of our continued commitment to assist in Pakistan's security and its economic and cultural development.

The Prime Minister knows our country well, and she has many friends here. And on behalf of the American people, I congratulated her on Pakistan's historic return to democracy last year, a development of which the people of Pakistan can be truly proud. We discussed how important it is for all elements of Pakistan society to ensure that democracy isn't just an abstract concept, but that it works.

And the Prime Minister and I reviewed the situation in Afghanistan. For the last decade, the U.S. and Pakistan cooperated in supporting the Afghan resistance in its fight against foreign occupation. And Pakistan deserves great credit and admiration for its extraordinary, extraordinary humanitarian efforts in support of the millions of Afghan refugees during this period. The effectiveness of our mutual policy was proven last February, when the last Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan. And we agreed, however, that the job is not done. The Mujahidin continues, and their struggle for self-determination goes on, a goal that both the United States and Pakistan continue to support. Prime Minister Bhutto and I discussed ways to encourage a political solution in Afghanistan that will lead to a nonaligned, representative government, willing to live in peace with its neighbors, to replace the illegitimate regime in Kabul. The United States and Pakistan will continue to explore any serious avenue towards this end.

The Prime Minister and I also reviewed our efforts to enhance stability in south Asia, an important objective of both governments. And I expressed our strong support for Pakistan's efforts, and India's as well, to improve relations, and stressed the critical importance of avoiding a regional nuclear arms race in the subcontinent. And she assured me that Pakistan's nuclear program is committed to peaceful purposes. I underlined my administration's commitment to discourage proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, in the south Asia region and around the world.

We also shared our concern about the scourge of drug production and trafficking. Not much detail yet on that, but we're going to go into that one in much more detail later on. It's a matter of grave concern to the United States. I applauded her tough stance on eradicating the opium cultivation and expressed our appreciation for the extradition of alleged drug trafficker Saleem. To effectively combat this menace, we've got to undertake a vigorous enforcement campaign, offering U.S. assistance wherever possible.

And let me say that, as far as I'm concerned, these discussions have been productive. And let me note, too, that that ceremony outside today, the first since I've been President, was a wonderful way to welcome the Prime Minister. And we just walked by the Rose Garden, which also is a lovely setting, and as the Prime Minister has observed, roses have a very special meaning in her life. And when she was younger, her father would bring back roses every time he traveled abroad, and in time, her family's gardens became filled with varieties of color. And during her own detention, she struggled bravely to keep the gardens alive, for as she has written, "I could not bear to watch the flowers wither, especially my father's roses."

And so, Madam Prime Minister, you've described your time among the roses and the cool shade of the gardens as "the happiest hours of my life." And now, as a gesture of friendship between our people and to continue your father's tradition, it is my privilege to present you with this American rosebush. May it -- and you -- prosper in the years to come. And welcome again.

The Prime Minister. I'm very grateful to President Bush for the kind invitation to pay an official visit to the United States, and I'd like to thank the President for his consideration in giving me one of the rosebushes from the White House. It shall always remind me of this very useful, productive, and helpful visit -- supportive visit -- of mine to the United States.

My presence here underlies the great importance that Pakistan attaches to our relations with your country. This is not only because geopolitical realities require a close relationship but, more importantly, because of the ideals and the objectives that we share. As you know, this is not my first visit to Washington or, indeed, to the United States. I have pleasant memories of my student days at Radcliffe, past visits to Washington, one of the great citadels of democracy. But it is a special privilege and honor to be here as the democratically elected leader of a country which has traditionally enjoyed close, friendly ties with your country.

Over the last 10 years, Pakistan has been in the forefront of two great struggles. We have actively supported the cause of the Afghan people and their brave fight against foreign military intervention, and at the same time, at home in Pakistan, we've struggled against military dictatorship to establish a system based upon democratic values and the respect for human rights. In both these epic struggles, we received from the United States unwavering support, and material as well as moral encouragement. It has, therefore, been a special pleasure and privilege to come to Washington and to thank President Bush and the Government and the people of the United States for their friendship and their generosity.

The President and I have had wide-ranging discussions on a number of issues, and I am convinced that this exchange will be of immense benefit to the bilateral relations that exist between us and also to the cause of world peace. President Bush has just returned to Washington from a spectacularly successful visit to Europe, and where he has launched a series of initiatives which could open an entirely new era in international relations, with the exciting prospect of a genuine and durable peace. Pakistan, which is situated in one of the more sensitive geopolitical regions of the world, will contribute towards these objectives and efforts.

While the withdrawal of Soviet forces has brought a welcome change in Afghanistan, the continued fighting and prolonged presence of over 3 1/2 million Afghan refugees pose serious threats to the peace and stability of the region. The President and I have reviewed the situation in the light of the prevailing circumstances, and we are in complete accord, both in terms of our analyses as well as the future policies that need to be evolved. Pakistan remains committed to a political solution of the Afghan problem, whereby the brave people of Afghanistan will have the right to freely choose their own government without interference from outside. Pakistan's commitment to peace and democracy are fundamental.

In thanking President Bush for the valuable support that the United States has rendered to us in the pursuit of these objectives, I have assured him of our continuing efforts towards maintaining peace in the south Asian region and of our determination to strengthen the process of nuclear nonproliferation by seeking accords, both bilateral and international, within the regional context.

The President and I discussed measures to increase our cooperation in the fight against drugs. We have already achieved some success in this direction in Pakistan, but much remains to be done.

In conclusion, I would once more wish to thank President Bush for the generous hospitality, for the warmth and the friendship with which we have been received. I go home greatly encouraged by our constructive and fruitful discussions. I look forward to the opportunity of reciprocating in Pakistan some of the warmth, kindness, and hospitality that my husband and I have been privileged to receive from the President and Mrs. Bush in Washington. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:33 a.m. in the East Room of the White House.

George Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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