Tough Issues Facing Bush in India and
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.