On the occasion of the U.S. political giant’s passing, we republish this interview with our Editor-in-Chief from 1990

Senior Republican Senator Robert 'Bob' Dole, 67, has carved a niche for himself in American politics. Known for his concern for the Third World countries, the Kansas Senator plays an important role in shaping US foreign policy. Both as Senate majority leader and Senate minority leader, Senator Dole always made an indelible mark in his political career.

In 1976, Senator Robert Dole was the Republican nominee for Vice President. In 1980 and 1988, he sought the Republican nomination for President.

His wife, Elizabeth Dole, is the Secretary of Labour in the Bush administration.

In Washington, Dole sees himself, and had hoped voters nationwide would see him, as the personification of the American ideal, proof certain that hard work and determination can lift a man from humble roots and carry him through adversity to great success. Dole's belief in that ethic has served him well, driving him with unbroken success from the Kansas House to the top job in the US Senate.

Dole's labours have nonetheless made him an architect of much of the major legislation of the past decade. As the Senate Republican leader, he has shown a will to exercise power and exert control that has made him one of the most effective in years.

Much has been made of the impact on Dole of his handicap, a nearly useless right arm and an impaired left one resulting from combat in Italy late in World War II, and of the years the once-athletic farm boy spent recovering. Clearly his character was indelibly marked. He is intensely competitive and self-sufficient. "I do try harder," he once said. "If I didn't, I'd be sitting in a rest home, in a rocker, drawing disability."

Sitting in his Capitol office, Senator Robert Dole talked to Enayetullah Khan (EK), Editor, Dhaka Courier and Chief Editor, United News of Bangladesh. During his first ever interview with a Bangladeshi journalist, Bob Dole (BD) spoke on the South Asian situation, the US policy towards the Third World nations in the wake of democratic transformation of the East European countries, the Kashmir issue, changes in the Soviet Union and the US domestic debt. We excerpt:

EK: How do you perceive the changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe?

BD: The remarkable changes we've seen over the past year, especially disintegration of the Soviet empire in Europe and the real improvement in the Soviet-US relations, will undoubtedly have a global impact. We have already seen more responsible Soviet policies in some areas -- but we are still insisting that the Soviets take some additional steps. In particular we'd like to see them end their military and political intervention in Afghanistan, so that we can finally see a restoration of sovereignty and peace in that nation ...That will also have an influence on India, and a responsibility to use that influence to achieve some reduction in tensions over the Kashmir question.

EK: There is a great concern in the Third World about possible diversion of Western aid to Eastern Europe?

BD: The concern ...is a real one. They (Third World nations) wonder whether the attention and aid we now allocate to their regions and nations will diminish. For myself, I can say that I certainly hope it won't ...it shouldn't, since our major interests in these other areas remain very important...I proposed that we reduce our largest aid programmes by perhaps 5% in order to free up some aid money. I made that proposal not only to help the emerging democracies, but to ensure that we could continue to support long-time friends in South America, Africa and Asia. Right now only two countries are taking more than 50% of our bilateral aid. They're important to us, but so are many other countries around the world. So we have to look very carefully at this to recognise; it's a real question and make sure we are not "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

EK: How do you read the South Asian situation and peace prospects in the region?

BD: I am very worried about tensions in that region....I think all parties have a real responsibility to do everything they can to cool things off and try to work out a lasting settlement. Other nations outside the region have a big stake in this because of what l believe is a real risk that any war could escalate into the use of weapons of mass destruction, perhaps in a worst case scenario even including nuclear weapons. We in the United States should do what we can...the US can play a constructive role. The Soviet Union, as I said earlier, has a special responsibility because of its relationship with India. The same can be said of China and its ties to Pakistan. So this is a real 'hot spot', which just has to be defused, and soon.

EK: On the domestic front, the debt burden has emerged as the biggest problem to US leaders. Would you comment?

BD: This is the biggest single problem facing the US today. Maybe, now that our overall debt burden is more than S3 trillion, and our annual budget deficits are into the 12 digits, a lot of other people are getting the same idea. Right now we're holding round-the-clock meetings -- the White House and the Congress together -- to see if we can come up with a serious, workable package to deal with our debt problem this year.

(First published in August 1990)

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