Dealing with Pakistan after the hijacking

Musharraf: U.S. must press new military ruler to quell terrorism, so India won't act on its own.

January 28, 2000

WASHINGTON should increase the pressure on the new military regime of Pakistan to suppress terrorists operating from its land.

Pakistan is entitled to dispute India's possession of part of Kashmir. But Pakistan is not entitled to give sanctuary to an organization that explodes bombs in India and hijacked an Indian airliner last month.

India identified the hijackers as members of Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen, which trains insurgents to fight in Kashmir. India accused Pakistan of masterminding the hijacking and blamed it for four bomb blasts in Kashmir on Wednesday.

The State Department does not go so far, but it does consider Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen a terrorist organization.

Pakistan's new strong man, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, apparently stonewalled on this issue when visited by U.S. diplomats last week. He is more concerned with a kangaroo trial of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and with cowing the country's judiciary.

Washington has two levers.

One is the visit or non-visit of President Clinton, who has been planning to go to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in March. Throughout the Cold War, Washington supported Pakistan, while India was cozy with Moscow. The rationale for that is over. A Clinton tilt toward India would damage General Musharraf and improve U.S. relations with the world's largest democracy.

The other lever would be to list Pakistan with countries sponsoring terrorism, effectively vetoing loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. If the evidence is there, Washington should not shirk from applying to this nuclear country the standards imposed on others. This would discourage India from taking its action, risking nuclear warfare. And it would underscore the priority that Washington rightly places on civil air safety.

Washington cannot impose democracy on Pakistan and should not try. It can deter Pakistan from sponsoring terrorism, and should try very hard.

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