America's Vital Role - the United States, as the World's Most Powerful Democracy, Should Help India and Pakistan Achieve Their Legitimate Aspirations

Article excerpt

September 11, 2001, represents a watershed in the history of our nation. The sole surviving superpower was awakened from its self- imposed stupor and false sense of security. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon changed the political landscape forever, not only in the United States but all over the world. New bilateral alliances and regional multilateral coalitions had to be built to forcefully respond to the challenge of asymmetrical, unconventional warfare launched by the terrorists.

The immediate response demanded a reappraisal of U.S. relations with countries surrounding Afghanistan, the base where the terrorists planned the events of September 11. Pakistan was the only country in the neighborhood that had diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The geographic realities, including the strategic location of Pakistan and its intelligence and logistical assets, demanded an immediate revival of U.S. partnership with that country if war against the terrorists in Afghanistan was to be won.

During the first 10 days after the attack, U.S. policymakers at the State Department, National Security Office, and Department of Defense presented Pakistan with a list of seven key demands designed to ensure its full cooperation with the United States. Pakistan was expected to provide blanket overflight and landing rights; access to at least two naval bases, four airbases, and its borders; and immediate intelligence and immigration information for the military campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan was also asked to interdict the flow of fuel and arms to Afghanistan.

It was evident that an effective war effort in Afghanistan needed full Pakistani cooperation of the same size and scope that had led to the defeat of the Soviets in the 1980s. These demands made Pakistan an overnight frontline state in the war against terrorism. President Bush clearly asserted in his State of the Union address, "So long as training camps operate, so long as nations harbor terrorists, freedom is at risk, and America and its allies must not and will not allow it." To translate this statement into practical policy, the United States embarked upon reassessment of its relations with both India and Pakistan, the two major countries of South Asia.

A long history of hostility

India and Pakistan have been hostile neighbors since their independence in 1947. The root cause of the hostility has been the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir. The uneasy relationship has often led the two countries to amass troops on each other's borders. Pakistan has insisted that Kashmiris must be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination under a UN-sponsored plebiscite to determine their future. India has consistently vetoed outside intervention to settle the dispute and has considered any efforts at third-party mediation as interference in its internal affairs. India has also opposed a plebiscite in Kashmir as potentially leading to disintegration of the Indian Union. Both countries have pursued defense and foreign policies centered around the explosive issue of Kashmir. They have developed nuclear weapons and are actively pursuing acquiring sophisticated delivery systems for their nuclear bombs.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was both wooed and squeezed to make a 180-degree turn in Pakistan's two-decades-old Afghan policy, designed to gain strategic depth in a friendly Afghanistan against a hostile India to the east. President Musharraf readily agreed to this drastic change in policy, to replacing it with a strategic alliance with the United States against global terrorism. Such an alliance, he felt, will give Pakistan security that it has always needed against a much larger, more powerful, yet hostile neighbor, India.

Pakistan's self-interest demanded rebuilding its economy, which had been shattered by towering international debt obligations and nonproductive defense-related expenditures. …