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India no threat to Pak: Zardari
Pleads for $100 billion aid; describes Kashmiri militant groups
as “terrorists”
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

President Asif Zardari has said he has no objection to the US-India civil nuclear deal, adding that India has never been a threat to Pakistan.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal, he also described Kashmiri militant groups as “terrorists”. He said he had no objection to the India-US nuclear cooperation pact so long as Islamabad was treated “on a par” with New Delhi.

“I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad,” he said in the interview with Wall Street Journal’s columnist Brent Stephens during which he called the international community to give Pakistan $100 billion in grant for the country to survive. He insisted it could not be described as aid because if Pakistan falls the world faces a disaster.

“Why would we begrudge the largest democracy in the world getting friendly with one of the oldest democracies in the world?” In the interview, Zardari also called for a broader free trade agreement with India. He said: “India has never been a threat to Pakistan.”

Stephens said in his column that Zardari spoke of the militant groups operating in occupied Kashmir as “terrorists” even though former President Musharraf would more likely have called them “freedom fighters”.

In his dispatch based on the interview, Stephen wrote, “Not only does Zardari want better ties with Delhi, he notes that there is no other economic survival for nations like us. We have to trade with our neighbours first.”

“He (Zardari) imagines Pakistani cement factories could provide for India’s huge infrastructure needs, Pakistani textile mills meeting Indian demand for blue jeans, Pakistani ports being used to relieve the congestion at the Indian side. For a country that has spent most of its existence trying to show that it’s the military equal of its neighbour, the agenda amounts to a remarkable recognition of the strides India has made in becoming a true world power.

At the outset, Stephens, who interviewed the President in New York last Saturday, said Zardari “crafted his phrases in a tone of command.” Pakistan’s war, he says, is “my war”, its fighter jets “my F-16s”, its Intelligence Bureau “my IB”. When he discusses Pakistan’s economic crisis, he says he looks to the world to “give me $100 billion”.

The corruption issue, he says, “has been used for a long time as a political tool,” particularly by “radicals” trying to sully democracy’s good name. Foreign investors, he adds, have been coming to Pakistan for decades, and “none of them have complained about corruption”.

Citing the threat posed by militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and the possible economic meltdown, Zardari asked the international community to give Pakistan $100 billion in grant to ensure the country’s survival.

“I need your help, if we fall, if we can’t do it, you can’t do it,” Zardari said.



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