March 1, 2006 © The Center for War, Peace and the News Media. All Rights Reserved.

Tough Issues Facing Bush in India and Pakistan

By Ahmad Faruqui
Global Beat Syndicate
NEWARK, Calif.
—When President George W. Bush visits India and Pakistan next week, he can expect a warm reception in India and a chilly one in Pakistan. This is a major reversal. During the past half-century, relations between Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad have undergone a sea-change.

Relations have never been quite as warm between India and the United States as they are now -- a far cry from the frosty Cold War years. India is viewed by Washington as a rising power, on a scale with China. Bilateral relations continue to improve, especially due to India's emergence as a global player in the IT outsourcing business. In his National Security Doctrine of 2002, Mr. Bush committed to forging closer strategic and military ties with India, and that seems to be working. Last July, he agreed in principle to give India access to long-denied civilian nuclear technology, including fuel and reactors.

Several issues must be ironed out before Congress will approve that deal, not least the need for India to separate its civilian from its military nuclear facilities. Urgent talks are ongoing to make this happen before Mr. Bush arrives in India, and failure to get that done will be a major fly in the ointment during his visit.

Overall, relations are warmer because, growing trade and financial ties aside, both counties are democracies (ours the oldest, theirs the largest) with diverse cultures; both view themselves as victims of terror.

In contrast, Mr. Bush is likely to face a far chillier atmosphere in Pakistan, which for nearly 40 years saw Washington as mostly a major "ally of a kind." While Mr. Bush enjoys close personal ties with Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, more than 70,000 people have taken to the streets in four major cities, ostensibly to protest the Danish cartoons, but in reality to express their displeasure with military rule.

There is more: anti-American sentiment is running high because of a botched U.S. attempt to strike Al Qaeda's top leadership in a remote area of northern Pakistan. The airs strike killed more than a dozen Pakistanis and Musharraf was not able to elicit an apology from Washington. This has overshadowed the good will American gained when U.S. troops and aid workers assisted Pakistanis in the aftermath of a huge and catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan last October.

Importantly as well, more than ever, Musharraf is now viewed as being Bush's puppet, and in that context, Bush's visit will weaken Musharraf further. Quietly, the White House has been pressuring Musharraf to retire from the army next year, when parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place, and run as a civilian candidate. Musharraf has been dropping hints that he will get himself re-elected through the existing parliament and postpone parliamentary elections for 2008. In addition, he seems increasingly reluctant to retire from the army.

To many Americans, Pakistan is a country governed by an enlightened ruler who is fighting terrorists at great personal risk. To Pakistanis, Musharraf is an army chief who deposed a democratically elected government. Even Pakistanis who initially welcomed him have become tired of him.

Chronic military rule in Pakistan has repressed minorities and women and worsened inter-provincial relations throughout much of that troubled country's existence, ever since it was created in 1947. This has caused religious extremism often manifest in outbursts of sectarian killings and terrorism. Nor have any Pakistani leaders, civilian or military, been able to tame a culture of tribal justice that lets the perpetrators of gang rapes go free. In many urban areas, the residents live at the mercy of armed gangs and robbers.

As every expert agrees, Pakistan's problems are inherently political in nature and cannot be solved by people in uniform. In his second inaugural address, President Bush declared, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." In Pakistan, Bush should make it a point to speak directly to the people of Pakistan through national radio and television and reassure them that his global commitment to democracy does not exclude the 160 million people of Pakistan.

If the Bush administration is set on bringing constitutional rule to countries without a real democratic tradition, it has all the more reason to restore democracy to Pakistan, which does have a history of democratic rule and whose founder was a democrat par excellence. Doing so will go a long way toward stemming the tide of rising anti-Americanism in the world's second largest Muslim state.

Ahmad Faruqui directs research at the American Institute of International Studies and has authored Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan.

© 2006 The Center for War, Peace and the News Media. All Rights Reserved. The Global Beat Syndicate, a service of The Center for War, Peace, and the News Media, provides editors with commentary and perspective articles on critical global issues from contributors around the world. For more information, check out

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