Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Drawing the Line at the Border ; Clinton Ends S. Asia Trip Saturday Telling Pakistan That Peace and Prosperity Go Hand in Hand

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Drawing the Line at the Border ; Clinton Ends S. Asia Trip Saturday Telling Pakistan That Peace and Prosperity Go Hand in Hand

Article excerpt

A day after President Clinton's controversial trip to Pakistan, here on the border of Kashmir that Mr. Clinton called "the most dangerous place in the world," Brig. Gen. Khalid Nawaz is keenly disappointed. He had hoped the US commander-in-chief would send clear signals of US sympathy for Pakistan's claim on the Kashmir valley - located just over a line of rugged mountains where on this sunny day Pakistani and Indian observation posts can be seen a mile apart, at heights of 32,000 feet.

"We feel a little let down," says General Nawaz, a graduate of officer's school at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and now in charge of Pakistani troops at the de facto border where shelling has grown heavier in recent weeks. "[Clinton] talked about geoeconomics and markets. But he did not talk about the suffering of Kashmiris who have been under a siege."

Indeed, when the first White House trip to South Asia in 22 years ended in Islamabad on Saturday night after six days in India and Bangladesh, Pakistanis felt a gloom-inducing chill from their old cold war allies.

Despite official statements of cheer and support, Clinton delivered a "wake up call" to Pakistan, according to high-level officials travelling with the presidential entourage. An 80-minute meeting between Clinton and Pakistan's Chief Executive Officer Gen. Pervez Musharraf did not yield what the general hoped - US mediation in the 53-year Kashmir dispute.

Instead, the US president sent a clear message: Kashmir violence or peace. The president, sources say, told General Musharraf that unless Pakistan conducts its policies in accord with a mainstream set of international norms, and stops supporting mujahideen fighters crossing the border to Kashmir, Pakistan will continue to break apart economically and politically and will become increasingly isolated in the community of nations.

Further, the president stated that only a resumption of the "Lahore dialogue" with India could solve the dispute between the two archrivals - which has grown more troublesome since both sides tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

In a somewhat extraordinary address broadcast on Pakistani national TV, Clinton, after tripping slightly on the traditional Muslim "As-salaam aleikum" greeting, told Pakistanis they are in "a new and changing world ... [an] era that does not reward people who struggle in vain to redraw the borders with blood."

Indeed, if the Clinton tour to India was marked by relative comfort, swooning members of India's Parliament, trips to tiger reservations, cheering school children, and announcements of aid - the roughly 7 hours in Islamabad was sober and serious. Security was high, streets in the spacious capital were deserted, and the president arrived in a decoy plane, a white Gulfstream C-20.

Unlike India, where gaudy 20-foot-high placards of Clinton's face were painted next to those of local politicians, the drive from the Pakistani airfield was sign-free with the exception of a series of banners that made the central Pakistani point: "Freedom for Kashmir."

Officially the White House trip was designed to "keep the lines of communication open" to Pakistan, stated Joe Lockhart, the president's spokesman. …

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