Gen. Musharraf has quite a few items on his agenda for discussion with US administration



Sep 16 - 22, 2002

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.