Opinions from India, Pakistan


October 18, 2001

U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell visited India and Pakistan this week, attempting to soothe two bitter enemies who have appeared to be edging toward a dangerous war over Kashmir, the mountainous region they both desire. The United States worries that fighting between the two countries could undermine the campaign to fight terrorism, now concentrated on Afghanistan.

Newspapers in the two countries bristled with opinions yesterday on the visit and relations between India and Pakistan. Animosity and distrust inform their feelings. Here are excerpts from editorials published yesterday:

Dawn, Pakistan In Pakistan, as Colin Powell would have known from his pre-visit briefings, some fanatical groups resorted to strikes and agitation, trying to [spoil] his visit. Similarly, in New Delhi a few segments of Indian opinion were not willing to extend a welcome to him. A veteran communist leader, appearing in an Indian TV panel discussion over the weekend, contended that the U.S.'s victory in Afghanistan would establish its hegemony in the South Asian region.

To complicate matters, the gulf between India and Pakistan at the moment seems virtually unbridgeable. [Indian] Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is perhaps too weak and too unwilling (because of the pressure of the extremist elements in his coalition) to resume peace talks with Pakistan for the present. President Pervez Musharraf's telephone call to him the other day had only a very short-lived mollifying effect.

As the American airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan enter their second week, with President Bush committed to a "long and relentless" operation against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, nothing appears to concern India more than its war of suppression against the freedom fighters in occupied Kashmir.

It is disconcerting that India should not feel concerned about heavy civilian casualties in Afghanistan or hundreds of thousands of Afghans being driven out of their homes to seek safety and shelter in Pakistan. Despite a clear threat to the peace and stability of the region, New Delhi remains obsessed with the idea of getting Pakistan declared a "rogue state" by the world community for its alleged role as a sponsor of terrorism in occupied Kashmir.

It is a pity that President Bush is not inclined to accept the Taliban's offer of handing over Osama bin Laden to a neutral third country for trial provided the U.S. provides hard evidence of his involvement in the attacks of September 11. The U.S. should have realized that this was as far as an Afghan regime could go in the prevailing circumstances. By summarily rejecting the offer, Washington has shut out the possibility of a compromise solution. President Bush must realize that despite his professions to the contrary, his war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban is being perceived by the Muslim world as a war against Islam. He had the chance of dispelling such a perception but unfortunately he let it pass.

Jang, Pakistan

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's main purpose was to strengthen the anti-Osama and anti-Taliban alliance that the U.S. administration has cobbled together. He had other subsidiary objectives in view as well. Powell wanted and received a positive reply from President Pervez Musharraf on re-establishing Pakistan-America ties on a more permanent and stable footing.

Pakistani military officers can again be trained in American military schools and training establishments. Nationalistic cynics have made snide remarks that that sort of relationship enables the U.S. undercover agencies to recruit useful moles and informers. Anyway, much else is a part of this: Long held up military supplies might start flowing again; and one can almost hear the inaudible and unsaid promise of military aid if, say, things go on improving.

Some Pakistanis are likely to become rapturous over President George W. Bush's brusque ukase to India and Pakistan to "stand down in Kashmir" while the U.S. is engaged in its "activities" in Afghanistan. Powell also said so many sweet things on Kashmir, including a resolution of the problem according to the wishes of the Kashmiris and that Kashmir was the central issue. His homilies on human rights could only touch the right chord in Pakistan hearts.

But what precisely is Powell going to say in New Delhi? The U.S. is after all an outside power that dare not offer mediation to New Delhi. The American concern about Kashmir subsides when it comes to annoying the Indian establishment. We see no reason why Pakistanis should go gaga on Powell's concerns about Kashmiris' human rights violations. Let them worry more about the limits, if any, of the real cooperation America desires and what will happen if Pakistanis were to extend it?

Indian Express

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