Editor’s note: The following essay is an excerpt from the book, “No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington,” by Condoleezza Rice
…On February 28 , the President left for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The trip required the most delicate balancing act to get the messaging right in each of the places. Our delinking of relations with Islamabad and New Delhi was working—there was no more talk of U.S. policy toward India-Pakistan, or Indo-Pak, as it was sometimes called. We now had distinct approaches to both important countries. And we were doing really well with India: while there the President would sign the landmark civil nuclear deal.
The nuclear deal was the centerpiece of our effort to build a fundamentally different relationship with India. From the earliest stages of the 2000 campaign, it had been our intention to change the terms of U.S.-Indian engagement. As I noted earlier, the crucial nuclear agreement required breaking many taboos. India had refused to sign the NPT in 1968 and had then conducted a nuclear test in 1974. Only five countries had been “grandfathered” as nuclear powers in 1968—the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China. Any country that subsequently acquired a nuclear capability was deemed to be in violation of this important set of prohibitions. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed a bill that cut off all nuclear trade with India.
Prospects for a framework agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeliswere brightening as the spring approached. During the President’s trip in January, we’d both been impressed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s desire to get a deal. After the Annapolis Conference, he’d placed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in charge of the Israeli side of the negotiations, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had tapped Abu Alaa. There was something of an asymmetry since the Palestinian team was experienced, having negotiated the issues for more than fifteen years. Like the back of their hands, the team members knew the ins and outs of the maps, the nuances of the phrases, and the history of the conflict. Tzipi admitted that she didn’t know the issues as well but she came up to speed very quickly. I traveled to the region even more frequently, holding meetings with each side separately and several times jointly. The progress was slow but steady. At one point, to better understand the Palestinian concerns about the Israeli settlement of Ariel, Tzipi even suggested a joint field trip to see it. I was convinced that the parties were trying very hard.