Musharraf greets Bush's
NSA Stephen Hadley. Below: Protests in Pakistan
Lost Considerable Clout in US Visit
September 30: General Pervez Musharraf has complained that Washington
abandoned Pakistan after the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan
and has established strategic alliance with India.
is significant that the realization has come after a hectic week-long
visit to the US, where besides a one on one meeting with President
Bush he had the occasion to meet Administration officials and
important sections of the media.
visit had been prepared well ahead of time. Three weeks before
the visit Foreign Minister Kasuri had made history by meeting
his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in Istanbul while the General
had announced he would address the American Jewish Congress in
New York. It was believed this would have a good impact on the
President Bush's pro-Likud neo-con advisers.
visit has seemingly been a damper. Consequently there was no address
to the nation after the President's return. No effusive statements
or attempt at giving spin to the talks by the otherwise irrepressible
Sheikh Rashid who has uncharacteristically remained quiet.
The first official meeting President Musharraf had in New York
was with the abrasive Condoleezza Rice. That the talks continued
for 75 minutes indicates there was lack of agreement on vital
issues. The American press was unhelpful. Asked what he considered
his failure during the visit, the President conceded it was the
American press. The journalists asked uneasy questions about uniform,
state of democracy, AQ Khan, Osama bin Laden, and rape victims.
views about women getting themselves raped to get rich or have
a Canadian visa turned out to be faux pas that haunted him throughput
his stay in the US. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin reacted
sharply to the observations saying it was unacceptable. There
was a pandemonium at the conference of the American Pakistani
women during General Musharraf's address. When instead of saying,
"I'm sorry" the President denied what he had said, the
paper put the tape on the internet.
the concerns shown by the press were more or less shared by the
Administration. What is more Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
of the newly declared strategic ally, had complained that Pakistan
still controlled terror flow, while old ally Karzai supported
by successive US ambassadors and military commanders also maintained
that terrorists continued to operate inside Afghanistan from sanctuaries
Bush gave both General Musharraf and Dr Singh 30 minutes each,
but the even-handedness ended there. That the US considered India
a strategic ally had been made clear when Dr Singh visited Washington
in July. If General Musharraf had hoped he would be able to enlist
the support of President Bush to persuade Mr Singh to withdraw
troops from areas in Indian occupied Kashmir he was mistaken.
this been achieved the symbolic gesture would have been projected
at home as a big breakthrough. Dr Manmohan Singh with whom he
said he has "complete understanding" refused to budge
an inch. First he took exception to General Musharraf mentioning
the K word in the General Assembly. "This goes back to the
kind of those days we have put behind", he protested.
was going to be no recall of troops, despite General Karamat taking
pains to clarify that what Pakistan actually desired was withdrawal
from pre-designated areas and not demilitarization and that "Indians
can send troops again if the situation warrants". The nearly
four hour meeting between the two sides, described as tense and
strained, failed to produce any result. Singh maintained Pakistan
controlled the flow of militants into the Indian controlled Kashmir
and the continued acts of violence and terrorism cast a shadow
over the peace process.
Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters after the talks the
President had assured the Prime Minister that he would do everything
possible to allay India's apprehensions. As none on the Pakistani
side contradicted Mr Saran one is led to conclude that assurances
demanded by India were given.
this indicates that General Musharraf's clout with Washington
has considerably reduced. Despite all he has done to uproot Al-Qaeda,
there is a perception that he is not fully cooperating. What is
more, with the Afghan parliamentary elections over and the threat
of Al-Qaeda receding in the region, he is gradually losing whatever
influence he still has.
order to prove he can still be helpful, General Musharraf has
launched the idea of restructuring the OIC and has offered his
services for the resolution of the Middle East crisis. The offer
to reform the OIC in order to reduce the anti-West feeling has
cut no ice with the US, which considers the organization as no
more than an inconsequential talk shop.
far as the second offer is concerned, it is considered to be preposterous.
Everyone knows General Musharraf enjoys little influence with
the Palestinians or with Israel.
Musharraf was warmly received when he visited Washington in November
2001 after joining the coalition against terror. The way praises
were showered on him in Washington and many Western leaders came
to Islamabad to pat him on the back led him to develop the illusion
that he was being given the status of a strategic ally.
forgot that it was in fact a relationship between an imperial
overlord and his vassal who had been asked to perform a certain
job and was to be paid for it. The payment came in the form of
lifting of sanctions, backing of debt relief and a few billion
dollars of support. With the job nearing completion, relations
are likely to be revised.
The writer is a seasoned columnist who writes in The Nation.