Perry's Mission

January 15, 1995

Secretary of Defense William Perry's mission to India and Pakistan may fail to improve U.S. relations with India or revive them with Pakistan; may fail to dissuade each from deploying missiles against each other; may fail to halt their nuclear weapons development programs; may fail to prevent a fourth and infinitely more destructive war between them; may fail to get an invitation from them for U.S. mediation of their Kashmir dispute.

But the effort needed to be made. The dispute between these two probable nuclear powers is one of the most ominous threats to world peace today.

India's dependence on the Soviet Union ended when the Soviet Union did, and the reason for it subsided when the U.S. in 1990 suspended military aid to Pakistan. Nonetheless, the starved Indian air force is getting ten Russian jet fighters in a $220 million deal. It had been negotiating for 65 planes worth $1.8 billion, but the Indians wanted a complete technology transfer that Russia resisted. This down-sizing paved the way for Mr. Perry to sign an agreement for U.S.-Indian military cooperation that is heavy on exchanges and joint training, but limited in weapons procurement.

This small breakthrough followed Mr. Perry's visit to Pakistan. There, he seemed to improve relations but left Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto forlornly demanding that the U.S. either deliver the 71 F-16 fighters that Pakistan purchased in 1988 or return the $650 million half-payment that Pakistan made. The U.S. has failed to persuade Pakistan to renounce nuclear weapons but has not given up trying.

Pakistan was vital to the U.S. aid route to Afghan rebels during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It remains valuable as a beacon of moderation in the Islamic world, but of no other particular usefulness that would cause the U.S. to wink at nuclear proliferation.

Russia is no longer the adversary of Pakistan or the U.S., or the particular friend of India. Now the U.S. is trying to persuade India not to deploy the short-range Prithvi missiles it developed, or Pakistan the M-11s it bought from China. The U.S. is trying to keep them out of a war with each other that would be destructive to both. This is a service each of those major countries desperately needs, and can get from no other source, certainly not from Russia or China. Mr. Perry's visit to each country was in the interest of the other.

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