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Pakistanis felt both insulted and apprehensive from Clinton's visit.

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Apr 03 - 09, 2000

As was expected there was no breakthrough in the Clinton-Musharraf meeting. Divergence of views of key policy issues remained intact despite the fact that two men talked for more time then scheduled and built a personal report by finding lighter subjects of common interest like golf.

It, however, came as a rude shock to most of the Pakistanis that, contrary to all expectations, the President of the lone superpower of the world Mr Clinton sounded curt and openly tilted in favour of India when he said "we cannot and will not mediate in Kashmir", and advised Pakistan to resolve this issue through negotiations with India. This is exactly the endorsement of Mr. Wajpayee's stand. Before this visit, however, Clinton regarded Kashmir as a burning issue between 2 nuclear powers in South Asia which, if not resolved peacefully, can destroy the peace of the region and had been giving an impression that the United States will use its influence to resolve the issue. When ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, ordered vacation of Kargil heights after a meeting with Mr. Clinton publicly announced that he had received a commitment from the US President that he would personally intervene to resolve this long outstanding issue. Noticing this aboutturn in Mr. Clinton's approach, a Pakistani Commentator aptly described it as his "deeducation by Indian leaders on India-Pakistan relation in general and Kashmir in particular thereby almost completely justifying Indian stand point." Another remarked" Pakistanis felt both insulted and apprehensive from this visit.

In a televised address during his visit to Islamabad, President Clinton warned that Pakistan faces danger of isolation, if she does not show nuclear restraint to end risk of war (with India) and curb violence and extremism. He also cautioned Pakistan that restoration of full US economic and political partnership with her hinges on Islamabad's positive response to these 'challenges'. He said there is no military solution to the Kashmir issue and called for resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue to resolve the Kashmir dispute adding that he had already urged New Delhi to seize the opportunity for dialogue. 'Pakistan must also help create conditions allowing dialogue to succeed', he said adding 'no matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the Line of Control.'

Despite soft and sweet references to Holy Quran, Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal, the harshness of his message betrayed the eulogy of the past Pak-US ties, spanning over half a century. The unbecoming tone and tenor of his address, punctuated with repeated 'warnings' and cautions, sheds ample light on the nature of the developing Washington-New Delhi romance and its ramifications for the region, especially Pakistan. President Clinton's warning to Pakistan about the 'Danger of isolation' on the issues of nuclear restraint and violence and extremism, smacks of a calculated move to render Islamabad subservient to Indian hegemony The United States and the whole world was a witness to the fact that it was India's nuclear detonation on May 11, 1998 that provoked Pakistan's response. Islamabad can, in no way, be held responsible for the nuclear arms race in South Asia. If the US President was not provoked with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's assertion about India's determination to maintain 'minimum nuclear deterrence' in the face of its provocative nuclear doctrine worth ten billion dollars, there should be no reason for him to question Pakistan's nuclear deterrence, based exclusively on its security perceptions due to New Delhi's mounting threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Similarly, it is unfortunate that the United States is not distinguishing between terrorism and freedom struggle in Kashmir today although she had encouraged, funded and tampered Mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. Yesterday Clinton's retreat from his role to make India agree to resume dialogue with Pakistan for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute to a mere onlooker to the moving spectacle of death and destruction in the occupied valley is neither justified nor appropriate.

The net outcome of the visit is that Pakistan stands in the lime light of reality. The US does not want to mediate in Kashmir' it does not want any forcible alteration in the line of control' it will not put up with escalation of violence for any rhyme or reason, it wants Pakistan to sign CTBT and expects from Pakistan more positive involvement in disarmament and non proliferation efforts, it wants Pakistan to control the movement of the organizations in Pakistan which were helping freedom fighters in Kashmir; it wants Pakistan to help US to catch hold of Asama Bin Laden and restore national level democracy at the earliest.

The unambiguous articulation of the American view should make it easier for the Musharraf government to carry out a more realistic appraisal of the prospects of future interaction with the US. Before the visit took place, perceptions in the Pakistani establishment were not spot-on or the level and limits of engagement with Washington. That is why issues like American mediation in Kashmir or getting Washington's attention focused on the recurring LoC troubles at times evoked unreasonable exceptions.

All Washington policy cards are now on the table. This can now be used as a baseline for chartering a pragmatic future course of diplomatic action. The onus of initiative, after President Clinton's speech clearly lies with Pakistan. It is the Musharraf government which, in the American view, has to lead the way to rebuilding the broken ties. The US, for all practical policy purposes, will watch when and how this initiative is launched.