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Remarks to Pakistani Youth

Secretary Colin L. Powell
American Center
Islamabad, Pakistan
March 18, 2004


PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER ANDREW STEINFELD: I'm going to make a very brief introduction. Thank you very much for coming. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here with us. I just want to introduce our students briefly. They come from three prestigious Islamabad Universities: the International Islamic University of Islamabad, the National University of Science and Technology, and Quaid-e-Azam University. Mr. Secretary, you have the floor.

Secretary Powell speaking to students while visiting Pakistan. State Department Photo. SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you very much. It's a great pleasure to be with you this morning and I always enjoy opportunities to speak to young people. Most of my day is spent when I'm traveling with Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers in very formal discussions and we are very careful about what we say. We talk about all kinds of issues, but with young people I can have a conversation: to hear what's on your mind, what are you interested in, it allows me to get a sense of what you're thinking about and what your plans are for the future and how you see the future of your country, the future of your relationship with the United States. It gives me a chance to answer questions about the United States' policy. But I'm more interested in not just policy and not just foreign policy, but what's going on in Pakistan? Help me understand what the desires, needs, and aspirations of the Pakistani people are. What are you expecting from the United States?

So, let's have a free flowing discussion and you are the leaders of Pakistan in a few years' time, and you have to prepare yourselves. Not only by getting a quality education, but by starting to think about the future, what kind of world are we entering into. It's a world where we have to defeat terrorism. It's a world where we have to improve the economic conditions in all of our countries to benefit those people who are not benefiting right now from the wealth that is flowing back and forth. Before I entered government again as Secretary of State, I spent about five years working on programs for young people: young people who were poor, young people who were not benefiting from all the wealth that the United States has. We're the richest country on the face of the earth, but we have people who are poor. We have youngsters who can't read. We have youngsters who don't have health care. So part of my life has been spent trying to work with those young people, to let them know that America is for everybody and not just the more privileged. And I think that is an attitude that you young people should have and you must convey throughout your society. You are the ones who are in universities. So, you're going to make it. You're fine. You're going to be successful in life. You're already successful in life. But how will you use that success? How will you use your education? How will you use the gifts that you have been given by your society? Will you use them just to improve your own standing in your own life? Or will you use these gifts and what you are gaining to help others who are less fortunate. So, I hope that you have already learned at this point in your life the importance of serving your society, serving your community, and reaching down and back and helping those who are less fortunate. So, I hope we can have a good conversation. Everybody seems to have something written down, but don't feel obliged to read what you have written down. I have nothing written. I have no notes. You all have notes. I have no notes. So that's not fair. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But, I bet you are well prepared.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, you can start, you just spoke. Would you like to start?

QUESTION: I am Sabba Ondilip. Doing my MPhil in American studies from Quaid-e-Azam University. And nowadays, I am doing my research on U.S. policies towards Pakistan will special reference to Kashmir. And now I have a question for you on the policies of America. As I am reading, so I have a different opinion on American policies. And these are opinion of American scholar, that it is the prior duty of Americans and especially in Washington, Americans consider it that it their prior duty to intervene into the world affairs. And so we are moving towards isolation. One thing, and secondly, I want to ask question on the Kashmir policy. That many writers wrote about this thing that, just to provide security to the American forces, America, America is taking interest into the Kashmir issue, and America want to counter the power of China, so he's supporting India and to counter India, America is supporting the Pakistan. So would you like to comment on this?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure. I think the first part of your question is: why does America believe its role [is] to intervene around the world? Not at all. America has not been a nation that has gone around the world to intervene in the affairs of others. We have been often asked and have often found ourselves with the obligation to go and free people, to liberate continents. We did not ask to go to World War I. We did not ask to go to World War II. We were obliged to do this in order to bring freedom to oppressed peoples. We believe strongly that all people have been given a gift from God of freedom, the ability given to them by God to live in peace and dignity and to do everything they can according to their own abilities. And to the extent that we are involved throughout the world, it's very often because people ask us to help with economic assistance, with development assistance. Many people have come to us and asked us to give them help with developing their political institutions and moving them in a democratic way. We are spending a great deal of money to help with HIV/AIDS. That's a good kind of intervention, 15 billion U.S. dollars to help with this catastrophe. And so, it's not a matter of us going around and intervening. It's a matter of United States having great political strength, economic strength and military strength, which we try to use for the purpose of freedom and democracy, and spreading freedom and democracy, and helping people who have been oppressed. And I think our record over the last 50 or 60 years is pretty good. We found ourselves in a war with Japan and Germany and Italy, and after the war, we worked hard to bring all those nations to a point where they are solid, democratic nations that we don't have to ever again worry about going to war with or that they will be aggressive against anyone else. We have supported South Korea. We have supported many nations around the world who wanted to live that way, as well.

With respect to this part of the world, we want to have good relations with India. India is a large country. It is a democracy. There is no reason we shouldn't have good relations, good trading relations, good political relations with India. We want the same kind of relationship with Pakistan, and after 9-11, Pakistan made a strategic decision to change its policies with respect to the Taliban, which essentially had allowed al Qaeda to take over a country. Afghanistan had become a terrorist country and we had to do something about it because it was American citizens and the citizens of many other countries that died in the World Trade Center. And so, we were able to work with Pakistan over the last three years on that challenge. But, we went beyond that. We're helping Pakistan now with school reform. We're helping Pakistan now with removing some of its debt. We're helping Pakistan now with respect to access to our markets. And we do this not just as a counterpoint to China and to balance India off against Pakistan or Pakistan off against India. We do it because it's in our interests and we believe it's in the interest of India and Pakistan for us to have good relations with both of those countries.

With respect to Kashmir, I understand what an important issue this is to both sides. And I'm very pleased that Prime Minster Vajpayee and President Musharraf entered into this dialogue on the 6th of January, so that the two sides will be talking to each other over time on eight different sets of issues that will include Kashmir. And the United States will follow the discussions closely. We'll work with both sides and be helpful whenever both sides ask us to be helpful. But fundamentally, this is a matter that has to be resolved between the two sides and with the interest of the Kashmiri people taken into account. And so, I think that America sometimes is accused of being, "you're unilateral," "you're pre-emptive," "you don't care about anybody." We do. We do care a great deal about the views of others. That's why we have strong alliances. That's why people want to be in a partnership with us. And I think our record over the last 50 or 60 years is quite good with the respect that what we have done to put down fascism, to put down communism, and now we're going to work with friends and partners to put down terrorism.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) My question is regarding visas.


QUESTION: I want to say that visa policies should be relaxed for doctors. And secondly, if we choose a doctor for a visa, please give it earlier because it takes round about six months and most of the doctors lose their interview dates in the states. And even if they attend (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm working hard on this. We had a problem after 9-11, in that we discovered that many people were coming to the United States and we weren't clearing them properly. We didn't know the background of a lot of the people who were coming into our country. And some of them are coming in to conduct terrorist attacks, such as we saw on 9-11. And we didn't know where they were once they were in the country and we didn't know when they had left the country. So we had to put in place a new set of policies that would better protect our homeland. In doing so, we have slowed up the visa process and we've taken other steps that have made it more difficult to get a visa. We are doing everything we can to now improve our systems, improve the databases, using more powerful computer systems to clear people quickly. I do not like it when I hear from a young person that you want to get into the United States and you're having trouble getting a visa, or that it takes too long to get an interview. And we're doing everything we can to speed that up because I want you to come to the United States to practice medicine, or to go to school, or to go to Disney World, or to get health care, or whatever you want to do. I mean, we want to be an open country, a welcoming country. That's our tradition. We are a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of foreigners. Who are we? We're everybody. I'm not…look at me. I'm an immigrant's son. My parents came with proper documentation in the 1920's and so did every other family to our country. So we want to keep that open attitude, and we're working hard to improve our system so that you can get your visas more quickly, especially those of you who are bringing technical skills to the United States; technical skills that we need, especially medical skills.

QUESTION: I'm Sari Yusef of International Islamic University. Sir, I want to ask you a question regarding the U.S. intervention in Iraq, which was based on a noble cause of liberating Iraq of a dictator. Now that it has been done, how do you explain the intensifying anger and growing resistance among the Iraqi people in the wake of this illegal U.S. occupation? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: There are still remnants of the old regime who are fighting the liberation. There are terrorist organizations who have sent people into Iraq to keep us from making progress. Most Iraqi people want what most people in Pakistan, most people in the United States want: to live in peace under a democratic system where they have the ability to vote for their leaders. They have the ability to get a decent job and to raise their families. And so those that you refer to, they don't plan to do anything good for the Iraqi people. They plan to destroy the dreams of the Iraqi people. And most Iraqi people would like to see these regime elements gone, would like to see the terrorists gone, so that they can get about the process of building the country. And you take polls in Iraq and people will say…you know, take, do polling, and people will say…we want to live in democracy, we want to have our own government, we want our sovereignty back, we want America to finish its work and go home. We want to go home, but we believe we have an obligation having gotten ride of this dictator, to put in place a stable system that will serve all of the Iraqi people. But there are terrorists, and there are former members of Hussein's regime that are trying to stop that.

We should all be condemning what happened overnight with another hotel with innocent people, who were there to help the Iraqi people, being blown up by those who have no intention of helping the Iraqi people, but they want to go back to suppressing the Iraqi people. We must not forget that we got rid of a regime that was digging and filling mass graves with innocent people. We got rid of a regime that was suppressing its own people. In the south, in the area where the Shias live, they were draining the marshland and destroying an entire ecosystem, where people had lived for hundreds of years under that system. It wasn't America that did that. That was Saddam Hussein. We are now restoring the marshlands by returning, putting water back into that, so these people can have the kind of life that they've always lived and they want to have now. And we are rebuilding the electrical system, the sanitary system, the water system, the oil system -- all of this to benefit the Iraqi people. And just as we have done in the course of our history, once we help a people get back up on their feet, put in place a democratic system, we go home. What we did in Japan, that's what we did in Germany. We turned sovereignty back over and the United States does not wish to own anyone's country or dominate any people.

QUESTION: Sir, my name is Mansoor Abassi and I'm doing my MPhil in American studies from Quaid-e-Azam University.

SECRETARY POWELL: In…yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Sir, all we have is bookish knowledge about America. We want first hand experience about American society and culture because America does not mean White House altogether. And sir, at this level we want exchange of students and professors, and before that it was happening in the university, but after 9-11, it is no more. So sir, would you please do anything in this concern, because in this way we will be able to portray a better and true picture of America and we can remove misconceptions amongst us, especially in case of Pakistan against…about America. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: I couldn't agree with you more. We want to do more with respect to having places and facilities like this. Having the ability for us to send professors from the United States, people from the United States here to share with you, to talk to you about our policies, and about who we are and what we're interested in. I have a number of programs in the State Department which bring students and journalists and others to the United States to spend time, and now that we have determined how to protect our borders a little better, with proper visa procedures and some fingerprinting, which people don't like, but it only takes ten seconds and it isn't really that bad. It's not like you're going to jail. It's just put your finger here, take a quick picture and then please come, come into our country.

So, we are getting all of that under control. We're going to speed it up and I want to get back to a situation where we are protecting our borders, but we are opening our doors. And we want that door to open both ways, for you to come to the United States: study, learn, exchange programs, and for us to send more people here and for us to be able to have centers like this. Unfortunately, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 and the continuing threat from terrorists, we have to take certain precautions to protect our people but also to protect others who might be at our facilities.

QUESTION: Sir, under the current global situation, Pakistan and the United Nations need to have an even better broad-based strategic vision on education. What do you see, sir, the various components of this vision?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of Pakistan and the United States or United Nations?


SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. We have been providing money to the government of Pakistan to reform your education system at the lower levels and improve the system of education given to young people. My experience in the United States, working with educational systems and young people before I came back in the government as Secretary of State, made it clear to me that beginning at elementary school level and on up, we must give our young people the basic skills that they need to be employable in the 21st century economy. It's fine to make them aware of their faith. It's fine to celebrate their faith in schools, but it's also important that they get the reading skills, the writing skills, the thinking skills, the math skills, the science skills that are going to be in demand in the 21st century world. Young people have to be educated now as you are being educated to contribute to this society, to contribute to this economic development of the society. If we are not developing young people who can contribute to the economic wellbeing of the state, then what will they be contributing to with respect to the state? And so, the way we put this in the program I ran was each youngster has to be given a marketable skill: something that allows them to earn a means to take care of themselves and their family, but also to contribute to the creation of wealth in the society.

And so, I believe that as Pakistan looks at its educational system, it should focus on giving young people the basic skills needed to participate in the 21st century economy. This isn't to say, make everybody ready to go to college, but even those who are not destined for college and university get the basic skills needed to be able to a job in the society. Or to gain a trade, something that contributes to the society. And if the educational system isn't doing that, then the nation ultimately will suffer. When these people become your age or become adults, when these youngsters become adults, and they're not prepared to contribute to the society, what happens? They become frustrated because they can't earn a living. That frustration turns to anger. That anger turns to dysfunctional behavior, and it is not in the best interest of the society. So reform the system to supply young people with the skills needed for the 21st century world, a 21st century Pakistan.

QUESTION: My name is User Asaf. I'm doing a masters in comparative religion at the International Islamic University. Sir, the term terrorism has always evaded definition. I would like to ask you, where do you draw the line between terrorism and freedom struggle?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think when you take action that destroys innocent human life, such as we saw yesterday, such as we saw in Spain last week…yesterday in Baghdad, Spain last week…that's terrorism. People on their way to work in Spain on a Thursday morning, many were students, many came from the same town, taking the same commuter train in, and terrorists came along, murderers came along and killed 200 of them and wounded 1,500 others to make some kind of political statement. I don't know what they're struggling for. What are they struggling for in such an act of violence, such an act of cowardice against these innocent people? I think that's a clear example of terrorism. And I don't think it's a gray area. This is not the way we should be pursuing political objectives in the 21st century.

And so, terrorism is a threat to all civilized nations. Terrorism is a threat to the wellbeing of any country and this is why terrorist actions, such as we saw in Spain must not be permitted to determine the course that a particular country will take. You can't let yourself become hostage to this kind of murder. Otherwise where are we? We're back in the jungle and the answer is just keep bombing things, keep blowing things up. So I hope that these incidents will demonstrate to all that we have to come together as civilized nations to fight this new "ism"-- terrorism.

QUESTION: Sir, my name is Fouad Nazir and I am from the National University of Science and Technology. Sir, I have a small suggestion to make. What I think that, sir, the situation of the world is getting worse day by day.


QUESTION: The situation of the world is getting worse day by day, like wars and killings and all this. What I think, I personally think the only a good solution to this problem is this: that we make a good academic collaboration between the countries. Like we can have good academic collaboration between Pakistan and US and all other countries.


QUESTION: Yes, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: Economic relationships?

SECRETARY POWELL: Academic, I'm sorry yes.

QUESTION: Because academia is a very important portion of any country because we are all students you see sitting here. We will be the forecomers of progression of our country, or in any country. What I think that to improve the situation, this is a key point that we should increase academic relations and we should have a friendly atmosphere in academism and we should exchange students, we should exchange academic people like professors and teachers, so that they come here and the academia portion, they should collaboratively work for the progression of the society. So the thinking will be very much clear and equal. It will be much more close to the development of the society and automatically things like war and this will automatically omit from our mind. This is the suggestion I want to make.

SECRETARY POWELL: I agree. I agree. I totally agree. The more we know about each other, the more we learn about each other, the more we engage on differences that we have between our societies and between our social systems and between our political points of view, the better off we are. The more dialogue we have at every level, and especially at the academic level, where opinion-makers are located: the people who will write articles, the people who will give us the intellectual base for our society, the better off we are. And in my work in the State Department we have many such programs, the Fulbright scholars program, a number of similar programs where we do this sort of thing. The state of Georgia, the country of Georgia, that recently changed leadership from President Shevardnadze to President Saakashvili. President Saakashvili is a graduate of American universities and most of the ministers in the new Georgian government have American educational experiences through our international education programs. Now we don't do it for the purpose of creating cabinet ministers in the future, but we feel very good about the fact that so many foreign leaders, at one time or another, had participated in these kinds of exchange programs. So they have an understanding of the United States, they know what we believe, what we think and they can take that knowledge and that experience back to their own countries.

I just, I know time is running out, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to say to you again, going back to some of the earlier questions, is that the United States has great power, we know that. But with power comes the obligation to use it correctly and with prudence. And to use that power with an understanding of the views of others, and take into account the views of others. That's why we work so hard with the United Nations. That's why when the challenge of Iraq came up in the first instance, the President took it to the United Nations, trying to find a solution. It's why even though we didn't get everybody to agree with us after we went into Iraq, we then went right back to the United Nations and got three more resolutions from the United Nations to support our reconstruction efforts. It's why we have a strong alliance in NATO and we want more countries to come into NATO. People have said to me, "the cold war's over, the Soviet Union is gone, why do you still need NATO?" My answer is, people keep wanting to join. You can't close a club that people want to join. And that's why we support the European Union expansion. It's why also here in South Asia we work so hard to have good friendships with both India and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Because we believe through dialogue, through cooperation and helping people achieve their aspirations, achieve their goals, we will create friends for ourselves and we will be friends for them.

And this friendship will take us down the correct path to resolving future problems: the path that does not lead to war, that does not lead to conflict, but leads to dialogue. And using dialogue to solve these kinds of challenges. The kind of dialogue that Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf entered into in January.

When I was last here, in I think it was July of 2002, it was a very dangerous time, you will remember. Very dangerous. And my greatest concern was not having a pleasant morning with students, but doing everything we could to avoid a war breaking out between two countries that had nuclear weapons. We were able to be of help to the two sides as they found a way to step back. And they have stepped back now so that they are in dialogue with one another on these challenges. And it was a great pleasure for me to arrive here and not see the headlines, "Powell here to talk about conflict," but "Pakistan wins…" cricket. I want to tell you how pleasurable this was for me.

And in my conversations with your leaders today and with the Indian leaders the other day, most of the discussions had to do with trade, "What can you do? You've got to lower this trade barrier. You got to remove this tariff. You've got to open up this market." Now it was contentious discussions, but I'd rather be talking about that than war and conflict. And we have now come to a point in our relations with Pakistan where these are the things we really do spend most of our time talking about. The same thing with India. We look for friends, not enemies. We look for peace, not conflict. Thank you.

I have to go see your President. Oh, I have some television interviews, then I go see your President.

Thank you all very much.

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