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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 17:36 GMT
Intense lobbying over Clinton visit

President Clinton is still undecided on visiting Pakistan

By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

As United States President Bill Clinton deliberates whether or not to visit Pakistan as part of his tour of South Asia next month, lobby firms in Washington are jostling frantically to influence his decision.

Lobbyists acting on behalf of the Indian government are trying to persuade the president to leave Pakistan off his itinerary, while those working on behalf of Pakistan are trying to persuade him to do otherwise.

Pakistan in crisis
Those for and against the visit are targeting the State Department, White House and Congress in their representations.

Expensive battle

The behind the scenes battle is the latest manifestation of the ongoing propaganda war between the two countries and is costing them both huge amounts of money.

India, for instance, is spending $75,000 a month. Pakistan is believed to be spending around half that.

One of the lobbyists acting on behalf of Islamabad is Lanny Davis, is a former special counsel to the President.

General Musharraf Should General Musharraf be snubbed?
He says: "Whatever we might say about this particular government in Pakistan, it has immediately indicated a willingness to negotiate. Nobody has yet explained why India refuses to sit down and negotiate, that's why President Clinton's involvement is so important."

Mr Davis says that President Clinton has played a key role in the peace process in the Middle East, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.

He argues that the president must do likewise in South Asia because India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons.

If the president snubs Pakistan, he says, the military government of General Musharraf will be pushed away from the west.

President's dilemma

Campaigners who support the Pakistani visit are thought to include the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, and the chairman of the Asia Pacific Sub-Committee, Doug Bereuter.

Lobbyists acting on behalf of India say that if the president visits Pakistan he will be giving legitimacy to a terrorist state.

The Indian lobbyists' argument could be made more powerful by the fact that the main firm acting on behalf of India has on its board of staff the former Northern Ireland peace envoy, George Mitchell, and the former Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole.

President Clinton's delay in deciding whether to go ahead with the Pakistani visit has also come in for some criticism in the American press.

A recent comment column in the Washington Post said that his ambivalence means that he will be portrayed as throwing Pakistan to the wolves if he doesn't go, or being the military regime's redeemer if he does.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan: No preconditions for Clinton visit
03 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan urges Clinton visit
01 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Clinton to visit India
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
US calls for democracy in Pakistan
13 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan pressed on democracy
12 Aug 99 |  South Asia
US calls for India-Pakistan talks
19 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Can the army deliver?
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory

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