President General Musharraf has proceeded to the
United States on an official visit on the invitation of US President
Bush to participate in the functions to commemorate the Sept. 11 (2001)
terrorist attack on twin towers in Washington. Gen. Musharraf, has been
invited as a special guest being the most strategic partner of the
United States in its war against terrorism.
Before leaving the President Musharraf told
journalists that he would be carrying a heavy and important agenda to
the United States for discussion with President George Bush including
the ongoing war against Al Qaida, US arms sale to Pakistan, increased
Pak. US Military cooperation, its help in descaling Indo-Pak tension and
resolving Kashmir issue, debt writing off debt and increased market
access in the U.S. for Pakistani exports.
Minister for Finance Mr. Shaukat Aziz who has
accompanied the President told newsmen that Pakistan will negotiate with
the US authorities for writing off dollars one billion loan, project aid
and market access during President General Pervez Musharraf's visit to
the United States.
"Though they have their own procedures and
formalities and domestic problems, we are hopeful we will be able to get
one billion dollars loan written off," the minister expressed the
hope. He said that the project aid is aimed at improving infrastructure
in Pakistan and instead of cash, Pakistan will focus on market access of
the US, as was given by the European Union (EU), which resulted in
increase in Pak exports to these countries, he pointed out.
It appears that Gen. Musharraf has quite a few items
on his agenda for discussion with US administration. As in the past the
United States will listen to some and ignore the others.
There is going to be a reiteration of Pakistan's firm
stand against terrorism. For its part, the American administration will
reiterate its commitment to a peace process between India and Pakistan.
This process, US keeps reminding, remains pegged to Pakistan's
commitment to stop "cross-border terrorism" and allowing the
elections in the disputed state to go ahead without any impediment. If
recent reports in Pakistan and India media are to be believed, a
framework to resolve the issue may be discussed on the basis of
converting the Line of Control into a permanent border. If that happens,
General Musharraf will have effected a major policy shift on the issue,
far more consequential than his earlier strategy reversal. However,
since the government has denied the veracity of such reports, and since
General Musharraf has no mandate to take such a decision, it will be
premature to talk about such a possibility. The United States may also
agree to selling some weapon systems to Pakistan but will refuse to heed
Pakistani concerns either on direct US sales to India of American
weapons systems for Israeli sales to that country. The US is likely to
point out to General Musharraf that Pakistan's correct behaviour will go
a long way in reducing any external threat; moreover, what Pakistan
needs more than any thing else are social and educational sector reforms
to fight extremism at the grassroots. That is an area where the United
States is more than willing to help Pakistan out. Additionally, it will
extend Pakistan the scop of some economic concessions, which is where
debt write-offs, tariff cuts and market access come in.
The two most important items on the agenda which have
not been made public as such but Pakistan Government has indirectly
hinted at a different levels and made her stand clear. One is the
continuing US Military operations against Al-Qaida remnants in
Afghanistan and some of them sneaking into Pakistan and other one the
likely demand from the US Administration to support its war on Iraq.
Pakistan is apprehensive of the indications by some US officials of
expanding the operation to its tribal areas. General Musharraf has quite
rightly discounted any such need because the Pakistani security forces
are already conducting such operations and, even at present, an entire
village in North Waziristan is under siege due to the reluctance of the
tribesmen to surrender suspected militants. That being so, President
Musharraf should be able to give a first hand account to his American
counterpart of the negative fallout of any American involvement in
Pakistan. He should also be able to paint the bigger picture, inclusive
of Palestinian sufferings and another American attack on Iraq, to
apprise President Bush of the anger on the streets of the Muslim World
at the US failure to take a balanced and fair stance.
He should also be able to convey to President Bush
the resentment felt by the Pakistanis at being once again used as an
ally of convenience. The current re-alliance cannot be seen as
honourable or durable until both partners are seen as benefiting from
it. Unfortunately, the US administration has beech callously unmindful
of the need for making a positive impact on Pakistani public opinion.
Whatever little has been offered by way of a quid pro quo for the
support against the former Afghan regime has been a drop of water on
parched sand. There has neither been a debt write-off, or even a
debt-swap, nor greater market access for Pakistani products. The US has
failed also to prevail upon India to pull back its troops and remains
reluctant even to sell the much needed F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan,
which alone could deter any Indian adventurism.