Show Pakistan We're No Fair-Weather Friend

By Hughes, John | The Christian Science Monitor, December 12, 2001 | Go to article overview

Show Pakistan We're No Fair-Weather Friend


Hughes, John, The Christian Science Monitor


As the United States reshapes its post-Sept. 11 foreign policy - allying itself with those who ally themselves against terrorism - the case of Pakistan demands special consideration.

Pakistan's cooperation in the war against the Taliban may not have been the deciding factor in achieving success, but without it the campaign would have been immensely more difficult. Pakistan provided valuable intelligence to the US about Taliban operations in Afghanistan.

American special operations units and paratroopers were permitted to use three air bases in southern Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf agreed to overflights of US strike aircraft launched from carriers in the Arabian Sea against Taliban positions in Afghanistan. We may never know the extent of other Pakistani cooperation provided to the US.

The acquaintance that most Americans have with Pakistanis is with the skillful doctors and scientists who emigrate and are found in hospitals and Silicon Valley computer companies, and the bright students studying at American universities, such as those who play Sunday cricket at the park near my house. But their homeland is a turbulent place, seething with complex politics that has enjoyed an on-again, off-again relationship with the US for several decades.

That relationship is on again as a result of President Musharraf's decision to throw in his lot with the US on the antiterrorism front. The US desperately needed Pakistan as a staging point for the campaign in Afghanistan. It just as desperately wanted a stable regime in Islamabad that could prevent Pakistan's nuclear devices, probably enough to make some 30 medium-sized nuclear bombs, from falling into extremist Islamic hands. In return, Musharraf, who is also an Army general, saw major military advantages and a lot of help for Pakistan's sputtering economy in a renewed alliance with the US.

Pakistan felt jilted when the US cut off aid in the 1970s, because of its developing nuclear program. In the 1980s, the aid pipeline was turned on again to encourage Pakistani resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But by the '90s, with the Soviets out of Afghanistan, the aid dried up again.

This time, there should be more constancy to the American commitment. This requires diplomatic deftness, because the US also needs a good relationship with neighboring India. India and Pakistan have a brittle association, much of it exacerbated by their rival claims to Kashmir. But Secretary of State Colin Powell has been careful to keep US relations with India sweet even as he eulogizes the new US alliance with Pakistan. …

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