Law reform as if people mattered
- Law reform as if people mattered
Few areas of American life are in more need of reconstruction than our legal
system. Yet little ever seems to get done.
Public dissatisfaction is rampant. Incredibly, in one Zogby poll, less than
5% of New Yorkers thought the legal liability system was �working well.� But
the public�s real concerns have been drowned out -- in the media and the law
schools -- by the ideological grandstanding of the left and right.
Year after year, prominent liberal groups like the ACLU and People for the
American Way obsess about the glories of due process, and influential
conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute
obsess about the need for efficiency and �sanity.� God help us if either
side ever finally wins out!
Meanwhile, practical issues that affect us all are barely on the media�s
For example: our legal system may be second to none -- in theory. But who
can afford to use it?
And even if we can afford to use it, what kind of justice does it bring? In
most non-criminal disputes, both parties are partly at fault (as we�ve all,
hopefully, learned in our own lives!). But in our civil justice system, you
typically end up a Big Winner or Big Loser, like in a boxing match.
And criminal defendants either walk or get punished, but rarely get help.
(One reason recidivism rates are sky-high.)
I went to law school, at the tender age of 46, in large part because I felt
passionately about such issues. But I was in for a rude awakening.
Especially at the so-called �elite� or �national� law schools (the top six
or 14 in U.S. News & World Report�s breathlessly followed annual law school
rankings), you quickly discover that issues of process and practice are
considered too trivial to spend time with. If you want to be taken
seriously, you�ve got to concentrate on what�s really important -- cleverly
disguised political polemics and tortuously written high theory -- �big
theoretical nondebates,� as Harvard�s radical middle law professor Mary Ann
Glendon calls them.
In my first year at New York University School of Law (currently #5 in U.S.
News), I was taken aside by my very brilliant and accomplished contracts
professor and told there was something unbecoming about concerning oneself
with �plumbing issues� like jury reform and middle class access to legal
services. Later that year, a female student who�d attended famous private
schools her whole life referred to my concerns disparagingly as
But I persisted in my wayward ways. In second year, I desperately wanted to
take a legal counseling course (that�s what lawyers do, right -- counsel
clients?); but true to form, and unlike Fordham and Cardozo law schools up
the street, my wonderful law school didn�t see fit to offer any. Our
electives included such social-status-marker -- whoops, I mean socially
relevant -- offerings as Shakespeare and the law, feminist legal theory, and
critical race theory.
I ended up getting a dean�s permission to take the �Introduction to
Counseling and Therapy� course in NYU�s Graduate Psychology Department,
where I was warmly welcomed as some kind of pioneer, being the first law
student to take a psych course in anyone�s memory.
Unfortunately, prejudice against �housekeeping issues� is not confined to
the elite law schools. It is reflected in the way the top newspapers and
magazines cover the legal profession -- high on politics and courtroom
drama, low on what most lawyers and clients actually go through.
Even most of the books that appear to be about legal reform -- such as
Catherine Crier�s Case Against Lawyers (2002) -- turn out, on closer
inspection, to consist largely of arguments in favor of shaping the laws,
themselves, in a more consistently left-wing or right-wing direction.
But things aren�t always as they seem. If you look below the surface, you�ll
find that the legal profession is bursting with people and projects that
give pride of place to �housekeeping issues.�
To a new breed of lawyer and legal scholar -- to those at the radical middle
-- issues of legal process and practice are not just important in
themselves. They�re important because they promise to transcend the �big
theoretical nondebate� between advocates of due process and advocates of
efficiency, and focus reform efforts on a new goal: making the legal system
as humanly friendly as possible.
Making it accountable, affordable, humane. Making it -- even --
psychologically beneficial, therapeutic.
With 50,000 members, HALT: An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform, is
almost as large as the national trial lawyers� association. But you�ve
probably never heard of HALT. That�s because its passion is championing such
relatively �trivial� matters as rules that can make lawyers more accountable
For example, HALT wants the current lawyer-run attorney discipline system (a
laughingstock even among lawyers) to be replaced by one run largely or
exclusively by nonlawyers.
�If a jury made up of nonlawyers is good enough to decide a murder case,�
says HALT Executive Director Jim Turner, �it�s certainly capable of
determining whether a lawyer has cheated a client.�
HALT wants to make disciplinary proceedings accessible to the public and the
press, just like the courts are now.
And HALT would put an informative �Legal Consumers Bill of Rights� into all
attorney contracts. For all the lawyer shows we watch on TV, most of us have
no idea what to do when an attorney has charged excessive fees, neglected
our case, lied to us, etc. HALT�s Bill of Rights would lay it out loud and
Juries need to be made more accountable too; and in his book The Jury
(1994), D.C. lawyer and journalist Stephen Adler synthesizes some of the
best radical middle thinking on the subject.
To begin with, he�d build a bigger jury pool. Businesspeople, physicians,
clergy, dentists, nurses, and others shouldn�t be allowed to use their jobs
as an excuse to avoid jury duty; in fact, everyone who refuses to show up
for jury duty should be fined some fraction of their income or otherwise
punished (and not just threatened with the possibility of punishment, as
most of us are today). That would not only broaden the jury pool immensely,
it would keep people from feeling like losers just for being on a jury -- an
unfortunate phenomenon today.
Adler would improve creature comforts at the courthouse, and reassign every
last �hostile or condescending clerk.� How can you expect juries to act with
gravity and grace if you treat jurors like cattle?
Peremptory challenges (i.e., lawyers� right to eliminate potential jurors
for any reason) -- now a crucial and extraordinarily contentious feature of
jury trials -- would be done away with ASAP. It�s the 21st century, time to
de-legitimize all stereotypes about how people of various ethnic groups,
backgrounds, temperaments, etc., are likely to think and vote.
Accountability demands knowledge, and nowhere is that more true than in the
jury box. �Jurors can�t function effectively if they don�t understand from
the very start what laws have allegedly been broken, the meaning of key
terminology,� says Adler. �Yet court procedures dictate that jurors won�t be
briefed on [such] issues, if at all, until after all the evidence is in.�
Radical middle legal reformers would have jurors briefed early and often.
And judges would be required to present their final instructions to juries
in plain English (a far cry from today!) -- and before the closing
arguments, so jurors could think clearly about the legal implications of
And jurors would be allowed to ask questions of the judge even during the
Eventually jurors might begin thinking of themselves not as hapless cogs in
a vast impersonal machine, but as trustworthy citizens doing something
essential for their community.
Justice is a mirage if you can�t afford it. That�s one reason radical middle
activists support a larger -- a much larger -- role for small claims courts.
Filing, preparing, and presenting a small claim costs next to nothing in
most states. It�s relatively easy; most people can handle it all by
themselves. And the process is relatively quick: most disputes are heard
within a month or two, and decisions are handed down either immediately or
within a few days.
One of the most effective proponents of small claims courts is Ralph Warner,
San Francisco attorney and author of the phenomenally successful handbook
Everybody�s Guide to Small Claims Courts (9th ed., 2003). Like many radical
middle activists, Mr. Warner wants the role of small claims courts to be
dramatically expanded in at least three ways:
1. Raise small claims limits. Today most states impose limits of
$2,000-$5,000 on the amount you can sue for in small claims court. Both Mr.
Warner and HALT�s Small Claims Reform Project would raise that to $20,000.
Most people �can�t afford to hire lawyers to handle disputes much below
this,� says Mr. Warner. Adds a HALT spokesperson: �Achieving that . . .
increase would be the most meaningful reform to increase consumer access to
the small claims courts.�
2. Adopt flexible remedies. In most states, small claims courts can only
assess monetary damages. Both Mr. Warner and HALT want remedies to be far
For example, they want judges to be able to issue �cease and desist� orders
in disputes between neighbors and in contract disputes. Mr. Warner wants
remedies to be limited only by the imagination of the judge and the parties
3. Increase accessibility. Hold weekend and evening court sessions! Provide
better self-help information -- door-to-door leafleting, brochures in plain
English, websites. Think about putting a full-time �small claims advisor� in
a storefront or the courthouse.
Unlike some activists, radical middle activists don�t just focus on the
poorest among us. That�s why they�re also strong supporters of the bete
noire of the legal profession, �multi-disciplinary practice� --
professionals from fields like law, accounting, psychology, and business
coming together in new kinds of organizations to serve common clients.
Multi-disciplinary practice might save clients money. It might increase
efficiency and the knowledge pool manyfold. But much of the legal profession
(including, crucially, the ABA) hates and fears it.
For many lawyers, the idea of sharing fees with other professionals -- and
giving up some degree of control to them -- is intolerable, the beginning of
For more holistic attorneys, though, the chance to practice in tandem with
other professionals is a chance to be as humanly helpful as possible.
Lawyers need to worry less about self-preservation and more about relevance,
says Hanan Isaacs, one of New Jersey�s most accomplished attorneys and
mediators. What lawyers do best is �identify and establish rules of conduct
and enforce them. To integrate these functions with other professional
crafts is both efficient and essential. . . .
�I believe the biggest impediment to fully integrated multi-dimensional
practice is . . . failure of nerve. In the age of the genome project, surely
we can create an appropriate regulatory structure for recombinant
Another way to make our legal system more affordable -- and more benign --
is to make it more predictable.
To that end, one of our first radical middle lobbying groups, Common Good:
Reforming America�s Lawsuit Culture, was launched in 2002. Advisors include
George McGovern and Newt Gingrich, not to mention at least four thinkers
cited in past issues of this newsletter!
�Fear of litigation has undermined our freedom to make sensible decisions,�
says attorney Philip Howard, founder and chair of the group (and author of
The Collapse of the Common Good, 2001).
�Doctors, teachers, ministers, even little league coaches, find their daily
decisions hampered by legal fear. . . . Doctors and teachers no longer feel
free to act on their reasonable judgment, eroding healthcare and undermining
order in the classroom. . . .
�Common Good is calling upon judges and legislatures to . . . draw the line
on who can sue for what. . . . Society needs red lights and green lights. .
�Law should make us feel comfortable doing what�s reasonable and nervous
doing what�s wrong. Today Americans are nervous doing almost anything.�
Making the legal system more accountable and affordable will help make it
more humane. But radical middle thinkers and activists are also pursuing
that goal more directly, in part by promoting three alternatives to the
traditional legal process -- mediation, �collaborative law,� and global law.
When I was working for a business litigation firm in Rockefeller Center, I�d
often walk home at night haunted by the feeling that nearly every one of our
multi-million-dollar clients would have been better off in mediation. One
client had been battling his �enemies� (mostly relatives) in court for 13
years; it was the very centerpiece of his existence. I felt our clients
needed to be put in settings where they�d be encouraged (or even forced!) to
face their opponents in a direct and psychologically mature way.
As it turns out, thousands of legal practitioners were feeling the same. By
1998 they�d managed to push through Congress the Alternative Dispute
Resolution Act, which not only requires all 94 U.S. district courts to
devise and implement their own ADR programs. It allows district courts to
force parties to go to (non-binding) mediation before proceeding to trial.
The far right laughed; the far left howled (Ralph Nader has long been
convinced that ADR is a plot on the part of The System to deny us our day in
court). Many traditional judges and turf-protecting attorneys are up in
But a recent appeals court ruling makes it look like the law will stay. And
in districts that aren�t overweeningly prejudiced against ADR, the law is a
huge success. Even in litigation-lovin� D.C., 30-35% of the cases referred
to the mediation panel are settled there.
Meanwhile, mediators across the U.S. are scrambling to keep up with the
demand for their services. Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, now
the U.S.�s largest private ADR service (and my first legal employer), has
developed nine approaches to mediation ranging from the highly structured to
the neo-New Age -- an approach for every type of human being! Training
centers for mediators range from the Harvard-associated Center for Mediation
in Law to the International Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict.
Some radical middle attorneys are trying to improve on mediation with the
concept of �collaborative� law, a product of the friendly and pragmatic
Midwest c. 1990. Even no-nonsense HALT has begun pushing collaborative law.
�Mediation is easy to avoid and, when tensions get high, it can always be
abandoned,� says a spokesperson at the Collaborative Law Center in
Cincinnati, Ohio. �What is needed is an antidote to the �fight or flight�
instinct. . . .
�Collaborative lawyers and their clients approach each other [with a desire
to negotiate and] a written commitment not to sue or even threaten to sue. .
. . If one party changes its mind and chooses to initiate court action, the
collaborative lawyers all must withdraw from the case and the clients will
have to start over with new, litigation lawyers.
�[This] guarantees that all participating counsel will be totally and
exclusively motivated to make the process succeed!�
One of the most extraordinary attempts to render legal practice more humane
is getting even less play from the media than collaborative law -- despite
the fact that certain Supreme Court justices support it.
Until recently, few lawyers or judges paid attention to the laws of other
nations. Even left-leaning legal practitioners were basically isolationist
-- and many still are. As Harvard Law School�s Frank Michelman recently put
it, we�re still trying to articulate common values within nations. Why go
looking for them across nations?
But the left is on the wane, and a new breed of legal practitioner is on the
rise; and few things excite them more than the sharing of legal perspectives
across borders. What better way to bring us all together -- into one global
community -- than by mutual give and take among all the world�s legal
�Constitutional law scholars and judges almost everywhere [now] are relying
increasingly on cases and other materials from many jurisdictions,� says
Prof. Norman Dorsen, editor of NYU Law School�s I-CON, the first
international journal of constitutional law.
And Prof. Dorsen isn�t just talking about cases from other nations� courts.
For example, Justice Anthony Kennedy�s majority opinion in the landmark 2003
gay rights case, Lawrence v. Texas, cited a gay rights opinion by the
European Court of Human Rights.
In an important and basically unreported-on speech to the American Society
of International Law in the spring of 2003, Justice Stephen Breyer
eloquently endorsed this borrowing and synthesizing: �[W]hat could be more
exciting for an academic, practitioner, or judge, than the global legal
enterprise that is now upon us?�
But it is Justice Sandra Day O�Connor who -- quoted by Breyer -- caught the
exact spirit of the emerging global legal enterprise when she said, �We
often have a lot to learn from other jurisdictions.�
American legal practitioners have a lot to learn? From courts in places like
Europe, Africa, Asia?
A new millennium is indeed at hand.
The humane perspective of the radical middle is being applied to criminal
law through the quietly burgeoning, barely 10-year-old phenomenon of
�problem-solving courts� -- drug courts, neighborhood courts, family
treatment courts, homeless courts, youth courts, and the like.
�Instead of adversarial sparring,� says a spokesperson for the New
York-based Center for Court Innovation (a pioneer in this field),
�prosecutors and defendants in some problem-solving courts work together to
encourage defendants to succeed in drug [or other] treatment.
�Instead of embracing the tradition of judicial isolation, judges in
problem-solving courts become actively involved [both by counseling and
dialoguing with defendants and by participating outside the courthouse],
meeting with residents and brokering relationships with local service
�Perhaps most important, citizens are welcomed into the process,
participating in advisory boards, organizing community service projects, and
meeting face to face with offenders.�
Probably the best-known problem-solving court is the Midtown Community
Court, near Times Square in Manhattan. That�s an area �teeming with
quality-of-life crime,� says Center for Court Innovation founder John
Feinblatt. �The Court seeks to honor the idea of community by making justice
restorative and accountable to neighborhood stakeholders.
�Offenders are sentenced to pay back the community through work projects
such as caring for street trees, removing graffiti, cleaning subway
stations. . . . At the same time, whenever possible, the Court uses its
legal leverage [-- do what we say or or do time in jail --] to link
offenders to drug treatment, health care, education, job training, and other
on-site social services to help them address their problems.�
The political left is upset that in problem-solving courts, rigid procedural
protections and zealous advocacy often give way to other and more
therapeutic objectives. Mr. Feinblatt doesn�t deny it. He does say that we
need to consider �what types of protections need to be built in . . . to
guard against the possibility of arbitrary decision-making.�
His ultimate goal isn�t to preserve the adversarial criminal court system,
but to bring a humane, problem-solving focus to the work of all criminal
You may have noticed that Mr. Feinblatt referred to �restorative� justice.
That was not vague rhetoric. To radical middle practitioners in the criminal
justice system, restorative justice is the humane alternative to raw
vengeance and milky forgiveness.
In their anthology Restorative Justice and Civil Society (2001), Heather
Strang and John Braithwaite provide an exceptionally thoughtful definition.
For them, restorative justice is both a process that brings together many of
the stakeholders affected by a crime, and a value that states that healing
the victim -- and ultimately even the victimizer -- is the most important
consideration. (Which doesn�t mean that the victimizer shouldn�t undergo
Prison Fellowship International (PFI) has been monitoring many attempts at
restorative justice. According to one PFI spokesperson, once an offender
pleads guilty and volunteers to participate, two types of encounters have
proved scary -- perilous -- but often psychologically satisfying and
effective for all concerned:
-- Victim-offender mediation �provides an interested victim the opportunity
to meet his offender in a safe and structured setting, engaging in a
discussion of the crime with the assistance of a trained mediator.� Goals
include providing victim and offender �the opportunity to develop a plan
that addresses the harm.� The plan is then presented to the sentencing
-- Family group conferencing �brings together the victim, offender, and
family, friends, and key supporters of both in deciding how to address the
aftermath of the crime.� If a mutually agreeable plan can be hammered out,
it goes to the judge.
Like many advocates of restorative justice, PFI�s spokesperson sharply
distinguishes it from traditional criminal justice: �It views criminal acts
more comprehensively -- . . . it recognizes that offenders harm . . .
communities and even themselves. [And] rather than measuring how much
punishment is inflicted, it measures how many harms are repaired or
A new jurisprudence?
Liberals and conservatives alike are desperately trying to hang onto a
jurisprudence that makes a fetish out of the formal, adversary process AND
has the practical effect of disrespecting, intimidating, or impoverishing
the vast majority of citizens passing through that process, whether as
jurors, plaintiffs, or defendants.
New Jersey attorney Hanan Isaacs, cited above, is right: the American legal
community is suffering from a massive failure of nerve. And behind that
failure is a lack of legal and political imagination.
Meanwhile, right under everybody�s noses, all the underappreciated
developments described in this article are contributing to a whole new
theory of jurisprudence, which some trial court judges, sociologists, and
legal scholars have begun calling �therapeutic jurisprudence.�
�Therapeutic jurisprudence is the study of the role of the law as a
therapeutic agent,� says University of Arizona law professor David Wexler,
who�s probably done more than any other individual to develop the concept
(as co-editor of Practicing Therapeutic Jurisprudence, 2000, and similar
books, and co-founder of the International Network on Therapeutic
�Therapeutic jurisprudence . . . focuses on the law�s impact on emotional
life and on psychological well-being,� Wexler says. �These are areas that
have not received very much attention in the law until now. . . .
�Basically, therapeutic jurisprudence is a perspective that regards law as a
social force that produces behaviors and consequences. Sometimes these [are]
therapeutic; other times [not]. Therapeutic jurisprudence wants us to be
aware of this and wants us to see whether the law can be made or applied in
a more therapeutic way so long as other values, such as justice and due
process, can be fully respected.�
For those of us at the radical middle, the �majesty of the law� is not its
impersonality or finality or intellectual grandeur. It is its awesome
capacity to help us run a humane U.S. (and global) household.
- As i see it
The US and South Asia
Ikram Sehgal writes from Karachi
US' positive vibes about India is nothing new, it has been in existence
since 1947 but the relationship has had its ups and downs, particularly
during the period India was an ardent anti-US champion as leader of the
"non-aligned" countries basically an anti-West pro-Soviet Russian bloc. The
pro-India lobby's views were best expressed by then US Ambassador (to India)
Chester Bowles in his May 25, 1965 Memo annunciating that India should be
the main US partner in Asia for containing China. The times may have
changed, the policy has been revamped to reflect the same aim. Earlier to
the recent SAARC event , an Independent Task Force co-sponsored by the
"Council on Foreign Relations" and the "Asia Society" took out a report, viz
"New Priorities in South Asia: US Policy towards India, Pakistan and
Afghanistan". As the Task Force states "India represents a partner of great
value" for the US, being one of the world's largest economies and its
increasing security presence in the Indian Ocean region. Despite policy
disagreements there are many converging issues of consequence that
encourages the US to "transform this relationship into a genuine
The Independent Task Force recommended that the US and India must, viz (1)
expand political security, military and intelligence cooperation, (2)
intensify dialogue on economic and trade issues, (3) negotiate a trade
agreement in services. Further that the US should, viz (1) ease restrictions
on cooperation with India in the civilian satellite sector, (2) grant India
"friendly" country status in export licences for transfers of defence
equipment, (3) ease restrictions on the export to India of dual-use items of
civilian and military uses and (4) encourage US official and private
entities to expand and develop cooperative programmes with Indian
counterparts. It encouraged India to viz (1) implement domestic economic
reforms with greater vigour (2) open its economy by reducing administrative
restrictions and other barriers to foreign trade and investment and (3)
reduce administrative restrictions impeding cooperative, academic and
foundation activities. This has now been expressed as a policy statement by
President Bush in offering India a "Strategic Alliance". It may be noted
that when the new US administration took over in January 2001 and
annunciated its National Security Strategy, China was labeled as a
"strategic competitor" and India an ally to contain China; 9/11 had made US
change its course but it seems that the Bush Administration is now returning
to its original policy statement.
The Task Force recognised that US-Pakistan relations have improved
considerably since 9/11 because of Pakistan's important geo-political role
in the "war against terrorism" but noted that the interests of the two
nations only partially coincide, mainly because of differing perceptions of
the two countries about freedom fighters and militants in Kashmir, and while
the US faults Pakistan for failing to restrain Taliban elements from using
the tribal territories as a safe sanctuary, it worries that continuing
India-Pakistan tension may hamper US' relations with India. Despite
Pakistan's laudable goal of making (in Musharraf's words) "Pakistan a
modern, progressive and dynamic State", the Task Force opined it cannot be
achieved given "unstable political institutions, weak economic and social
development", and "an uncertain military commitment to reform".
The Pakistan policy recommended states that US should viz (1) obtain early
congressional approval for a five-year, $ 3 billion assistance package with
two-thirds ($ 400 million annually) allocated for economic and on-third ($
200 million annually) for security assistance, (2) condition the release of
aid on Pakistan's progress in political, economic and social reform
implementation, cooperation in the "war on terrorism" and prevention of
leakage of sensitive nuclear technology and material, (3) make education the
principal focus of US assistance with high priority for projects that
develop Pashtun areas, (4) boost economic and technical support for
institutions of good governance -- the courts, parliament, police,
democratic political parties and revenue collection,(5) use appropriated
funds to buy back Pakistan's official debt to the US and (6) ease
restrictions on Pakistani textile imports into the US, avoiding new barriers
after the multifibre agreement comes into effect in 2005.
In contrast to the unfettered positive recommendations made by the Task
Force for India, Pakistan must view with concern that almost all the
recommendations for Pakistan were conditional. Obviously we cannot equate
ourselves with India economically and politically but then again we have
been a consistent ally to the US while India remained vocally in the
opposite Soviet camp. This "India first" policy of the US should not only be
regarded with concern but with consternation.
To live amicably with one another, India and Pakistan will have to address
the core issues, contain the inherent dangers and pursue a settlement
actively. Kashmir remains the greatest single threat to regional stability
and the possibility of a nuclear confrontation all too real. The US has been
engaging in crisis management. Given the dangers the inherent inability of
India-Pakistan to achieve progress on their own, this approach was judged
inadequate by the Task Force. There should be a long term US diplomatic
effort to facilitate and sustain a bilateral process that will gradually
lead to resolution of bilateral differences, including the core dispute over
Kashmir. The Task Force feels the US should stress on Pakistan the need to
(1) permanently prevent infiltration across the LOC and (2) modify its
present negotiating stance, which makes progress on Kashmir a pre-condition
for dealing with other India-Pakistan issues. As for India, the US pressure
is perfunctory, they need to (1) actively engage in trying to reach an
understanding with the elected Jammu and Kashmir State Government to better
address the aspirations of Kashmiris and increase the pace of economic
development and (2) reduce the level of activity by Indian security forces
and improve their human rights record. US diplomacy should help India and
Pakistan develop a framework that will enable them to address more
constructively issues such as nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs),
de-escalation along the LOC and the Siachen Glacier, expanded trade
relations, easing movement of people and reducing hate propaganda.
US lives with a recurring fear (shared by the developed world) that the
possibility of a conventional India-Pakistan conflict becoming a nuclear
conflagration remains very real. The Untied States is advised by the Task
Force to, viz (1) urge India and Pakistan to initiate nuclear discussions
without holding these hostage to progress on the Kashmir dispute, seeking
agreement on nuclear CBMs, including establishment of nuclear risk reduction
centres, to lessen the chance that accidents, misperceptions, or
misunderstandings might trigger a nuclear response. The US government is
urged to search for ways to find a place for a nuclear India and Pakistan
within the global nonproliferation system. At the same time, it is essential
that more rigorous controls to prevent the export of sensitive nuclear
technology or material be implemented.
The US has always been deeply interested in South Asia, both for economic
and political reasons. No sooner had the SAARC Summit concluded
successfully, a whole bunch of analysts opined that US pressure was the
major reason for the resumption of India-Pakistan talks. Even though US
officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell denied being an "unseen
presence" in Islamabad, they made no secret about actively encouraging peace
measures between the sub-continent's two nuclear rivals and a readiness to
facilitate further dialogue to ensure that the present "peace mood"
persisted in both the near and distant future. In the end, both India and
Pakistan probably opted for talks both because of domestic compulsions and
external pressures. If the US can get India and Pakistan to a working
arrangement that brings enduring peace, the US policy in South Asia will be
a resounding success and act as a model for other potential trouble-spots
where US policy is ambivalent at this time.
Ikram Sehgal, a former Major of Pakistan Army, is a political analyst and