Sunday, March 5, 2006

Useless Trip to Pakistan

This was in the NYTIMES a few days ago:

Pointless Trip to Pakistan
Published: March 3, 2006

At this moment in time, there is no more meaningful a place than Pakistan to illustrate the state of America's relations with the Muslim world. The country is ground zero in the fight against global terror. Anyone needing a fresh illustration need look no further than yesterday's bombing outside the American consulate in Karachi, which killed four people. Beyond the hunt for Osama bin Laden on the Afghan-Pakistan border, Pakistan is where radical fundamentalism is increasingly taking the moderate Islamic world hostage.

That's why President Bush's trip today to Islamabad could have been a chance to try to bridge this stretch of the chasm between Muslims and Westerners. Unfortunately, everything sets it up to be just the opposite, starting with the fact that it is being overshadowed by Mr. Bush's misbegotten nuclear pact with Pakistan's blood enemy, India.

Since Mr. Bush agreed to share civilian nuclear technology with India despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Pakistanis have been demanding similar treatment. The Pakistanis won't get that deal, and any time spent discussing the issue is wasted time that could be spent on other ways in which America should be developing its relationship with the Pakistani people.

Mr. Bush's visit comes just as Pakistan is getting past deadly riots over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. They came on the heels of American airstrikes that killed 18 Pakistani civilians in January — strikes legitimately aimed at Qaeda leaders that tragically killed innocents.

Clearly, this is the perfect time for the American president to do some nurturing. Too bad the nurturing that seems to interest Mr. Bush is with Pakistan's military dictator, President Pervez Musharraf. General Musharraf has yet to permit the democratic elections he has repeatedly promised since his coup more than six years ago, but the Bush administration, which says it wants democracy in the Muslim world, has put little pressure on him for reform.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush is receiving little pressure from Mr. Musharraf to grant the one thing that could tangibly bind America to Pakistan in a way that no number of summit meetings or sales of F-16 fighter jets could ever manage: a free trade agreement.

An agreement like the one the United States has granted Jordan and Morocco and a host of other countries would mean more jobs in textile factories in Pakistan. It would mean fewer unemployed people on the street with nothing to do but listen to the exhortations of mad mullahs. It would cement the economic well-being of the average Pakistani to the well-being of the United States.

Alas, don't expect to see anything close to that coming out of this trip. The Bush-Musharraf summit meeting is one between two leaders far more interested in guns than butter.

Post a Comment

more reads

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...