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Monday, November 19, 2007

Musharraf remains the US 's best option By M K Bhadrakumar

My friend SR forwarded this article by Anbassador M K Bhadrakumar. It is full of interesting insights and little gems that merits reading it for yourself. I have pasted some highlights. To read this little gem in full click on the heading.

The visit by US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to Islamabad on Friday has a parallel in an extraordinary American mission jointly undertaken by the then-secretary of state Warren Christopher and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to the Pakistani capital almost 28 years ago.

Pakistan wasn't a nuclear power in February 1980, and General Zia ul-Haq was the pariah of the international community. Zia had all the infirmities that dictators were afflicted with - an abominable human-rights record, his nuclear intent, his aversion to pluralism, his dalliance with religious bigotry, to name a few.

US officials (and newspapers) were confident Zia would grab the Brzezinski-Christopher package offered as inducement for fighting a clandestine war in Afghanistan . In the event, it took a further 14 months for Washington to work out the terms and conditions for bringing Zia's regime on board. An account of the riveting drama was later made available to readers by the then vice chief of army staff, General K M Arif, in his memoirs, Working with Zia.

The salient point is that Zia simply decided he would be better off not dealing with the "lame duck" Carter.


Biden is right in saying it is time Washington addresses the core issues of the US-Pakistan relationship. The issue is not about Musharraf alone. There is doubtless a massive undercurrent of "anti-Americanism" in Pakistani society. Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid recently noted that the animus against the US runs "most markedly in the educated middle classes".

Conceivably, pushed against the wall, the Pakistani military would choose to wait (like Zia did) to open a fresh page with a new administration in Washington . Pakistan can afford to do that. As it is, 75% of all supplies for the US forces in Afghanistan flow through or over Pakistan , including 40% of all fuel. The Pentagon press secretary admitted on Wednesday that the supply lines are already "a real area of concern for our commanders in Afghanistan ". Also, Islamabad cannot be unaware that apart from the Afghan war, regional tensions involving the US with Iran , Russia and Central Asia are likely to accentuate in the near term, which in turn will only increase US dependence on Pakistan .


First, Negroponte will be off the mark if he imagines he can still catapult former prime minister Benazir Bhutto into high office. (She seems to pin residual hopes on Negroponte, though.) The army and the Punjabi-dominated establishment simply refuse to allow Bhutto to come into the corridors of power. The establishment sees Bhutto as a difficult personality - "the most corrupt, sluggish and extravagant politician in Pakistan ", according to Musharraf's close confidante, Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed - and as a spent force politically. Musharraf has publicly debunked her claims to popularity in Pakistan .

Finally, Negroponte will know that after all, Washington has ways to influence Musharraf, and there is no need to insult the general and unintentionally unleash the anger of the Pakistani military. Musharraf has already offered that the choice is entirely Bhutto's to be conciliatory or confrontational. Negroponte and Musharraf could find common ground in lifting the emergency as soon as possible - they could even agree on a date - or removing restrictions on the media and civil society, or, better still, releasing political leaders and activists from detention.

One thing is clear. The military is not with Bhutto, and the country doesn't seem to trust her. Musharraf happens to be the only acceptable game in Islamabad .

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India 's ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

[click on the heading for the article]


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