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India, Pakistan, and Mr Clinton

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    India, Pakistan, and Mr Clinton

    India, Pakistan, and Mr Clinton

    It has been firmly decided by Washington that US President Clinton will visit India and Bangladesh from March 20-25. What's not been decided is whether Pakistan will be included in the trip. The US ''regrets'' that once again an elected Pakistani government was overthrown by the military. But more importantly, India has presented credible evidence that the recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane by Kashmiri terrorists was carried out in complicity with Pakistani intelligence and military agencies. A Clinton visit to Islamabad, it is feared in Washington, would look like an endorsement not just of the Pakistan military coup, but might also be interpreted as the turning of a blind eye to Pakistani state involvement in terrorism. The US is in a nasty bind of how to deal with its long-time South Asian ally.

    Well, let's cut through the diplomatic niceties. There was ample justification for General Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani military to intervene in what in a few short years had become yet another corrupt and ineffective civilian government in Islamabad. The present military rulers are cracking down corruption and the two dozen or so large land-owning families that have kept a tight stranglehold on Pakistan for decades and been the main hindrance to economic porgress of the country. They also act as a brake on Islamic radicals who want to convert Pakistan into an Islamist nation.

    Washington has asked General Musharraf not only to distance himself and his security services from terrorist groups attempting to stir Kashmiri insurgency in the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir, it has also asked him to crack down on such groups. But that is easier said than done. As the general explained to two visiting high-ranking US State department officials recently, any attempt at such a crackdown would likely lead to widespread unrest and could well turn out an effort he and his government would not survive. Some may interpret this as subterfuge; we would counsel that Washington take such a warning seriously and not push Musharraf at this point into an untenable position as a precondition for a Clinton stopover in Islamabad.

    The Kashmiri terrorist groups, as also Indian analysts are prepared to admit and confirm, may well be receiving Pakistani ISI (intelligence) and military support, but that does not mean that the government is in any position to exercise effective control over them. They and their ISI supporters are loose cannons and if pushed into a corner may well be able to rally sufficient Islamist sentiment to overthrow the present moderate military regime.

    Our advice to Clinton then is simple: Include Pakistan on the upcoming trip. Explain to India what India already knows regarding the insurgency potential in Pakistan and give General Musharraf the time and the face to deal with his domestic problems he requires. Too much is at stake to let matters of diplomatic protocol interfere in a tense and difficult balancing act. India made its point and convinced international opinion with hard facts that last summer's Kargil war was to be blamed on Pakistan. India won that round. It has in effect already won the next round: while officially Washington is not prepared to say so, the CIA is in possession of all the facts regarding the plane hijacking that point to official Pakistani involvement. The next round to be won is the round for peace. India and Pakistan can jointly win that round only if Musharraf is not sidelined by more radical elements in the military and intelligence services.

    Clinton visit foreshadows US economic tilt to India

    South Asia Observed,
    By Nick Hordern

    One of the longest delayed reactions to the end of the Cold War will come on March 20, when Bill Clinton begins a week-long visit to India and Bangladesh. The last US President to visit India was Jimmy Carter in 1978.

    Announcing his visit on Monday, Clinton described it as a reversal of American neglect of India. "I think we haven't been working with them enough," Clinton said. "We have an enormous common interest in shaping the future with them."

    The scope of this common interest has been becoming more apparent since 1992, when India embarked on an economic reform program which has resulted in sustained growth rates of more than 5 per cent. Over the coming decade India will approach China in significance as an economic partner.

    And India's new National Democratic Alliance Government, a coalition led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party, is stepping up the pace of reform. Last week it announced the sale of 51 per cent of Indian Airlines, one of two State-owned carriers.

    Since the NDA won elections late last year, American officials and companies have been urging India to open its markets more quickly. US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson visited Delhi last October, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers last month.

    But besides an obvious US desire to build links with what the World Bank believes will become, on a purchasing-parity basis, the world's fourth-largest economy by 2020, Clinton's visit is of major strategic significance.

    Delhi's and Washington's converging interests came into sharp focus last July, when Clinton forced Pakistan to halt a two month-long mini-war with India over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. His intervention marked the end of what President Nixon called Washington's "tilt" towards Pakistan in its unending conflict with India.

    The reason for Nixon's "tilt" was simple: as the Cold War wore on, the strategic equation in South Asia came increasingly to rest on a balance between the informal alliance between Delhi and Moscow on the one hand, and that between Islamabad and Beijing on the other. Washington backed the Pakistanis and the Chinese.

    It was not always so. In the 1960s Washington believed aid and co-operation would be the basis of its relations with (what were then called) Third World countries like India. But by the 1980s, peaceful co-operation had been replaced by strategic hostility.

    One turning point in relations between Delhi and Washington came in 1971. India invaded East Pakistan, soon to become Bangladesh, in support of an uprising against oppressive West Pakistani rule. The US Navy sent a fleet into the Bay of Bengal and even though it did not intervene, Delhi was shocked by this revelation of its vulnerability to American power. In 1974 India conducted its first nuclear test.

    Another turning point came with the penultimate drama of the Cold War, the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Washington determined to bleed the Soviet Red Army by arming the Afghan resistance, but to do this it needed Pakistani help. India backed the Soviet Union. So the "balance" between the Delhi-Moscow and the Islamabad-Beijing-Washington axes was prolonged for another decade.

    But the near-certainty Clinton won't visit Pakistan, under military rule since General Pervez Musharraf's coup last October, means this historic mould has been broken. And the lure of the Indian market is only a partial explanation for Washington's shift.

    The White House says that "no decisions have been made about other stops", but US officials have made it clear that Pakistan must act on terrorism, "progress towards democracy" and nuclear non-proliferation to get back into Washington's good books.

    "Terrorism" means Pakistan's support for the militants fighting to end Indian rule in Kashmir. Ironically, some of those fighting the Indians in Kashmir started out on the American payroll, fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. But Pakistan believes India stole Kashmir and will never resile from the cause.

    "Progress towards Democracy" means a clear timetable for a return to civilian rule. But Pakistan's civilian politicians have proved corrupt and inept, General Musharraf's regime is popular and he has ruled out early national elections.

    Then there is non-proliferation.

    When India carried out nuclear tests in May 1998, Clinton pronounced himself "deeply disappointed personally". Pakistan immediately matched India's tests.

    Initially, India and Pakistan were told to renounce their nuclear weapons. But as the impossibility of this became clear, Washington has focused on capping their nuclear arsenals. It wants Delhi and Islamabad to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans further tests of nuclear weapons.

    Delhi has indicated it may entertain some form of CTBT compliance and an announcement on this may be made during Clinton's visit.

    But the Pakistanis have been backed into such a deep corner they now have nothing to gain by complying with Washington's demands. A non-visit by Clinton to Islamabad will be the last straw.

    So the significance of Clinton's visit to India is three-fold. From now on, partly driven by economic considerations, Washington will "tilt" towards Delhi. Second, India has won de facto American recognition of its nuclear weapons status. And third, all hope of restraining Pakistan from waging proxy war in Kashmir has gone.

    The likelihood this will erupt into open war between India and Pakistan remains worryingly high.


      Why Clinton has to come to Pakistan while he can do business(if there is any) over phone, fax or e-mail. Poor waster! LOL

      Fata Morgana