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Little tangible gains for Musharraf from his US visit
The very survival of Pakistan seems to be hinged on Kashmir. The manner in which President Pervez Musharraf went about parroting the K-word during his visit to the US via Iran, Turkey, France and Britain shows how Kashmir-centric his foreign policy is. This needs to be contrasted with the reticence on Kashmir Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee showed during his talks with President George W. Bush and while addressing the UN General Assembly. Yet, patience has its limits, as underscored by the blunt statement Vajpayee made while addressing the Indian community at a dinner before leaving for London that ‘‘Kashmir is at the core of our nationalism’’. With this one-liner, the prime minister has conveyed more to the world than the general has through all the countless references he made during his 10-day tour of Europe and the US. Nonetheless, comparisons will be made between what Vajpayee and Musharraf have achieved during their almost simultaneous visits. To begin with, Musharraf can show off the $1 billion aid offer he has managed to get from the US. But then neither did Vajpayee ask for any aid nor did he need any. He had more bilateral and global matters to discuss than seeking clearance of the F-16 aircraft Pakistan had paid for and which the Americans believed the Pakistanis could not be trusted with.

Of course, the Pakistanis will gloat over the reference made to Kashmir in the joint statement issued after the Musharraf-Bush talks. But those who have been keenly following the US policy on Kashmir realise that there has been no significant change in its stance. Those who believe that Musharraf has scored some brownie points because of the reference the joint statement makes to ‘‘the need to resolve the Kashmir issue through mutual dialogue, keeping in view the wishes of the Kashmiri people’’ will be disappointed to know that it is not at variance with India’s stand. In fact, successive elections in the state have conclusively showed that the state is administered only in accordance with the ‘‘wishes of the Kashmiri people’’. Of course, there is no disputing that Musharraf got a better press and he was toasted by the world leaders. No longer was heard the Commonwealth threat of boycotting Pakistan till democracy was restored in that country. Or Western countries keeping safe distance from the military regime there. September 11 and the ‘‘war against global terrorism’’ changed all that.

But how significant are Musharraf’s gains from his US visit? Of course, it was quite courageous of him to have undertaken the journey at a time when hordes of Pakistanis were itching to cross the borders and fight alongside the Taliban. Despite all the goodies that he has been promised, there is still uncertainty about the actual delivery of the 28 F-16s. Gentle suggestions to reintroduce democracy in the country may not have had the desired effect on Musharraf but they should be seen as a gentle reminder that for all the encomiums the Western leaders have showered on him for being part of the coalition against terrorism, he is yet to gain credibility among the comity of nations. Once the current focus on Osama bin Laden is shifted to other centres of terrorism, Musharraf will realise how momentary the adulation he received was.
Editorial of IndianExpress newspaper