Friday, February 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

USA rules out F-16s to Pak
Bush promises $ 1 bn debt relief

US President George W. Bush and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf
US President George W. Bush (R) and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf answer questions after a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. — Reuters photo

Washington, February 14
President George W. Bush has promised his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf relief, but the military ruler got little else he was looking for in the USA. The promise of relief itself was $2 billion short of what Islamabad wanted.

Mr Bush, who held talks with President Musharraf at the White House on Wednesday, also assured him that the USA was committed to stand by Pakistan and work with it on a long-term basis.

President Musharraf insisted he was “committed to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. All other differences between Pakistan and India should also be settled through peaceful means. We believe the USA can facilitate such a solution and help South Asia turn a new leaf.”

Mr Bush, however, ruled out mediation over Kashmir if India did not want it.

“Our hope is that we can facilitate a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan. The only way this issue is going to be solved is if the Pakistani government and the Indian Government sit down and have serious, meaningful dialogue,” the USA leader said.

Mr Bush assured that he was committed to establishing a long-term relationship with Islamabad.

“When we say we’re committed, we’re committed — as long as we share the same ideals and our objectives remain the same.”

This assurance is important for President Musharraf, who has to placate disgruntled Islamic elements back home by projecting that his backing of the US-led war would help boost Pakistan’s economic development and the USA would not abandon Islamabad.

But, besides this assurance and the $1 billion debt relief, President Musharraf failed to extract any promises from the Bush Administration — neither on trade nor on F-16 fighter jets sale.

The two leaders discussed Pakistan’s relations with India, which have been tense since December’s terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament House.

President Musharraf told reporters: “I apprised the President of the massive and aggressive deployment of Indian forces on our borders and the serious security situation that it has created.

“The immediate return of Indian forces to peacetime locations and the early resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India is the way forward. We welcome the constructive role played by Mr Bush and (Secretary of State) Colin Powell in urging restraint and defusing military tension.”

President Musharraf had come with great hopes that Pakistan’s military relations with the USA would be restored to the Cold War era status, and he sought global mediation or facilitation in the Kashmir dispute, which he said New Delhi and Islamabad had failed to solve despite 50 years of dialogue. India and Pakistan dispute the ownership of the Himalayan state, now divided between them.

The Pak President also wanted arms and trade concessions, including a proposal that Washington suspend tariffs and quotas on textile and apparel products till the end of 2004.

But Mr Bush gave him no promises on any of these. The USA stopped military sales to Pakistan after Islamabad exploded nuclear devices in 1998.

Mr Bush agreed to initiate a dialogue on nuclear security and resume military-to-military cooperation after a 10-year suspension.

On trade, Mr Bush said he would allow an increased market access of $142 million for Pakistani apparel imports — a lot less than the $1 billion in trade concessions Musharraf sought to aid his country’s ailing textile industry.

The administration allocated $200 million in Bush’s 2003 budget proposals that will be used to cancel $1 billion of the $3 billion Pakistan owes US lenders. “We want to help facilitate the President’s concerns about a debt burden on Pakistan,” Mr Bush said.

After his meetings with Mr Bush and other officials, President Musharraf said he was “very satisfied” with the outcome of his talks that he said have been “fruitful and constructive.” IANSBack


Pak media boycotts Qureshi’s briefing

Islamabad, February 14
The Pakistani media covering President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to the USA boycotted the media briefing of defence spokesman Rashid Qureshi in Washington after he allegedly insulted a correspondent of a daily. PTI


Musharraf’s remarks dent his image
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
Whatever diplomatic mileage Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in particular and his military regime in general gained worldwide after his historic January 12 speech, some recent pronouncements made by the commando President have made a dent into such gains, diplomatic sources said today.

General Musharraf’s appalling statements on India secretly conducting nuclear tests and the kidnapping of US reporter Daniel Pearl and their all-too-evident baselessness have marred his own and his country’s image even though diplomacy has never been his forte.

Pakistan’s tightrope walk between its support to terrorists and its participation in international coalition against global terrorism is becoming comical. It does not know how to react to India’s demand for the handing over of 20 terrorists and criminals. Instead Islamabad has been making ridiculous counter-demands in this regard.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said his country had its own list of terrorists living in India. His Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh at once reacted by promising to quickly do the needful when India received the Pakistani list. He even asked his Pakistani counterpart to fax the so-called list on his open fax. But the list is not ready yet.

The Pakistan government then said it was preparing a list of Sindhis who might be hiding in India. That did not click. Next rumour was afloat through a friendly newspaper that Indian Home Minister L K Advani figured in this list for his role in a conspiracy to kill Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1947.

That sounded like a lamb and wolf story. When that did not work, President Musharraf’s press adviser Major Gen Rashid Qureshi addressed a press conference and telephoned some foreign radios and newspapers to say that some progress had been made in the case about the disappearance of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl.

The progress was that the government had “traced” Indian hand behind Pearl’s disappearance. A day after Mr Qureshi hinted at an Indian hand in the kidnapping of Pearl, Mr Sattar claimed in Germany that a prime suspect had made calls to three Indian officials. But the Sindh police expressed doubts over the allegations of Indian links and arrested the kingpin Sheikh Omar in Lahore, who during questioning, said Pearl was alive.

Sheikh’s arrest was preceded by the capture of three other suspects, Fahd Nasim, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib. In addition, the Pakistani authorities with the help of the FBI detained two former ISI officials, one of them a former pilot of Osama bin Laden. They were identified as Khalid Khwaza and Aslam Khan Sherani, both of whom had ties with Pakistani militant groups and had even trained fighters for anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan.

Before levelling charges, Mr Sattar and General Qureshi should have checked Pakistan Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider’s statement wherein he said Islamabad had not yet got a conclusive proof about India’s involvement. It was clear that the ISI’s disgruntled elements had hatched this plan to teach a lesson to the Americans.Back

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