Beyond The Islamabad Stop–Over

Beyond The Islamabad Stop–Over

Arabinda Acharya

The decision by the US President, Bill Clinton, to add Pakistan to his South Asian itinerary later this month provides a new twist to its policy dilemmas in dealing with the region. It appears that Clinton’s advisors finally ‘gave in’ to the dictact of real-politik by placing US strategic interests over and above the political concern that such a visit would give legitimacy to the military regime in Pakistan. They hope that a visit would produce concessions from Islamabad which would advance US security and foreign policy interests. These interests include, among other things, containment of international terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and the restoration of democracy and civilian rule in Pakistan. Supporters of the Clinton visit to Pakistan, including the regime in Islamabad, had argued that, by skipping Islamabad, he would be playing into the hands of the anti-democratic forces in Pakistan. Maintaining communication with the junta in Pakistan is better than isolating it. The Clinton visit is to make a contribution to an improvement of conditions in the region besides being a confirmation of the fact that the US and Pakistan have had “a long and close friendship”. American experts are of the opinion that the visit would ensure a de-escalation of tension in the region and keep the Pakistani Generals engaged “one way or the other” with the international community. The US needs to deal with terrorism and since the locus of international terrorism has shifted to the region, Washington needed to stay engaged with Pakistan. Moving away from Islamabad would have deprived Washington of its ability to deal with the generals and strengthened the hands of the militant fundamentalists within Pakistan. A snub of this nature might also have added to the region’s instability, worsening the threat of outright war and a possible nuclear exchange between Islamabad and Delhi. That is why gestures of accommodation that Islamabad handed out including General Pervez Musharraf’s possible visit to Afghanistan to plead for restraint in the regime’s support for terrorism, would have to be rewarded. (Pakistan dispatched a Cabinet Minister Omar Asghar Khan, to Washington to assure the administration of steps being taken to close down terrorist training camps and to “neutralise US worries about training of terrorist groups in Pakistan’s neighborhood”.) The efforts of US-based lobbyists for India to prevent a Clinton stopover in Pakistan drew support from some US law-makers as well as cross sections of the media which wanted Clinton to deliver a powerful snub to its military dictatorship. The Indian opposition to the stopover was expected, although a critic might argue that it betrayed immaturity and a wrong understanding of the role that US has assumed for itself in the new unipolar world order. New Delhi obviously wanted to further the isolation of Pakistan in the international community post Kargil. It also wants Pakistan to account for its role in the hijacking of an Indian airliner which in New Delhi’s view revealed Islamabad’s tainted hands in backing terrorists linked to the Taliban regime in Kabul. Indeed, New Delhi’s arguments against Clinton’s visit to Pakistan revolved around issues relating to Pakistan’s support for terrorism, an issue which New Delhi sees as a basis for greater Indo-US cooperation. India of course is not unaware of the US’ sovereign right to choose the countries for its President to visit. It is difficult for India, however, to forget that because of Pakistan’s backing for the Kashmiri separatists, it faces the prospects of a prolonged and increasingly vicious proxy war. Moreover, India can be forgiven for viewing the Clinton visit to Pakistan as an endorsement of its military rule and terrorism, particularly since neither President Eisenhower nor President Carter visited Pakistan when they came to this country in 1959 and 1978 respectively, at the heights of the US-Pakistan alliance relationship in the Cold War era. From New Delhi’s perspective, the Clinton visit to Pakistan might encourage the Pakistani belief that it is in a position to arm-twist the US on matters that affect its regional interests. The US decision has clearly dismayed the Vajapayee government. In an interview with the French daily ‘Le Figaro’ Mr. Vajpayee had said that while Clinton certainly had a right to stop in Islamabad, “a visit to Pakistan while this country is under military dictatorship and sponsors Islamic terrorism around the world would be very badly received by Indian public opinion.” Islamabad, on the other hand, has been quick to express satisfaction with the Clinton stopover decision. From its perspective, the trip vindicates the military regime’s position on South Asian issues. Indeed, Pakistani officials have linked Clinton’s decision to his desire to resolve the Kashmir problem and bring peace to (the) region. As for the White House itself, it insists that the President’s Pakistan stopover serves a number of key US national interests and does not amount to approval of, or acquiescence in, the government of General Pervez Musharraf. Washington also stresses that President Clinton was not planning to mediate in the Kashmir dispute. Others have reacted along the same lines. Benazir Bhutto,a former Prime Minister of Pakistan, does not find in Clinton’s visit to Pakistan any help for the military to stay in power. She is of the opinion that the return to democracy in Pakistan has to do more with its people than the visit of the President and that in the context of the gathering war hysteria, such a visit can help maintain balance and promote peace in the region. A New York Times editorial that had earlier asked Clinton to avoid making the stopover now advises the President that he should keep his visit there “as brief as possible,” and should press Musharraf to sever ties with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and raise the other issues that the Administration was keen on. It adds that Clinton should not “flinch from telling Gen. Musharraf what he must do to win American and world respect.” Several prominent US Congressmen, belonging to the Congressional Caucus on India have advised Clinton to press the military junta on democracy, terrorism and non-proliferation. The return of democracy, in their view, should be the main item on the agenda and the military dictator must give a certain schedule for the country to return to the democratic process. New Delhi’s unhappiness with the Clinton visit to Pakistan, therefore, must be viewed in the context of the overall spirit of one-upmanship that India and Pakistan have developed against each other. India, in fact, had little to lose from the Presidential visit to Pakistan, while Mussaraf’s fear was that a Clinton snub might be directed against his own regime, leading to his own downfall. The military administration, hence warned Washington against skipping Islamabad from Clinton’s South Asian itinerary under the spacious argument that irate fundamentalists might trigger a full-fledged cross-border war. Instead of sulking about what may seem for India to be a foreign policy setback and failure of the Indian Lobby in Washington, New Delhi should try to make the most of the visit on the economic and strategic front. After all, the issues that President Clinton wants Pakistan to address are important to India as well. Any short-term diplomatic achievements that India was expecting to get from preventing the Clinton visit to Islamabad should not be allowed to overshadow India’s long term national security concerns in developing a closer strategic understanding with the US.

(The author is Research Coordinator for the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, Bhubaneswar, INDIA & Adjunct Research Associate with the University of Toronto – York University Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, Toronto, Canada)

34 thoughts on “Beyond The Islamabad Stop–Over

  • May 24, 2017 at 6:21 am

    Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give
    a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading your articles.

    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that
    deal with the same topics? Many thanks!

  • May 24, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Every weekend i used to pay a visit this site, because i wish for enjoyment, since this
    this site conations truly fastidious funny material too.

  • May 25, 2017 at 8:10 am

    You can definitely see your expertise within the work you
    write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who
    aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always go
    after your heart.

  • May 25, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Its such as you read my thoughts! You appear
    to understand a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or
    something. I feel that you simply can do with some % to force
    the message house a bit, however instead of that, that is excellent
    blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

  • May 25, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest
    writing a blog post or vice-versa? My website discusses a lot of the same subjects as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you might be interested feel free to send me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you!
    Wonderful blog by the way!

  • May 25, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?

    I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  • May 25, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Very quickly this website will be famous among all blog people,
    due to it’s nice posts

  • May 25, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your web site. Do you
    ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems?
    A small number of my blog readers have complained about my blog not working correctly
    in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any advice to help
    fix this problem?

  • May 25, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I have been surfing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting
    article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me.
    Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did,
    the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  • May 25, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    When someone writes an article he/she retains the image of a user in his/her mind that how
    a user can understand it. So that’s why this paragraph is outstdanding.

  • May 25, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick
    shout out and say I really enjoy reading through your posts.

    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the
    same topics? Thanks a lot!

  • May 26, 2017 at 1:45 am

    Hi, Neat post. There’s an issue with your web site in web explorer, may test this?
    IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and a good component of other folks
    will omit your fantastic writing due to this problem.

  • May 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but
    after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

  • May 26, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I have read several good stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting.
    I wonder how so much effort you set to create this kind of fantastic
    informative web site.

  • June 7, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I think the admin of this site is really
    working hard in favor of his site, because here every data is quality based information.

  • June 7, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Hello mates, how is all, and what you want to say on the topic of this paragraph, in my
    view its truly awesome in favor of me.

  • June 7, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, great blog!

  • June 7, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Hi, Neat post. There is a problem along with your website in internet explorer, could check this?

    IE still is the market chief and a large component of other people
    will miss your magnificent writing due to this problem.

  • June 7, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    It’s amazing in favor of me to have a website, which is good designed for my knowledge.
    thanks admin

  • June 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Hello, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just
    curious if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you reduce
    it, any plugin or anything you can advise?

    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any support is
    very much appreciated.

  • June 7, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having
    a tough time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
    Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems
    different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  • June 8, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Right now it sounds like Drupal is the best blogging platform available right now.

    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  • June 8, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I think the admin of this web site is truly working hard
    in support of his site, for the reason that here every information is quality based stuff.

  • June 8, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    all the time i used to read smaller content that also
    clear their motive, and that is also happening with this article which I am reading at this time.

  • June 8, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Hello friends, pleasant article and good arguments commented at this
    place, I am truly enjoying by these.

  • June 11, 2017 at 10:12 am

    It is really a great and helpful piece of information. I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • June 11, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Paragraph writing is also a excitement, if you be acquainted with after that you can write if
    not it is complex to write.

  • June 14, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Hi there, You have done a great job. I will certainly
    digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

  • June 22, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    I simply want to tell you that I’m newbie to blogging and definitely enjoyed this page. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You definitely have impressive stories. Thanks for revealing your webpage.

  • June 23, 2017 at 2:48 am

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am going through problems with your RSS.
    I don’t know why I can’t subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems?
    Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond?

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

    If you are going for finest contents like me,
    simply pay a visit this web page daily because it offers quality contents, thanks

  • June 24, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Do you have any video of that? I’d want to find out some additional information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.