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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Pakistan and the US - friends in need?
By Louise Tillin
South Asia analyst

President George W Bush has met Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, and Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, in recent days.

Bush and Musharraf
Standing shoulder to shoulder? Pervez Musharraf and George Bush
The separate visits were testimony to Pakistan's continuing importance as an ally of the US in its "war against terrorism".

But they raise questions about what Pakistan has received in return for its dramatic change of foreign policy since 11 September - and about how well Pakistan's leadership is performing as a US ally.

Faiz Rehman, President of the National Council of Pakistani Americans, says it is important for the US to continue supporting President Musharraf who has done a "great job" in assisting the US-led war on terror.

But at the same time, he says, America needs to do more to build up its relations with the people of Pakistan.

Social capital

"The impression [of the Americans] is that they just strike a deal with the top guys", Mr Rehman told BBC News Online.

While he argues that US investment in Pakistan's defences is necessary, he believes Washington should place more emphasis on investing in Pakistan's social infrastructure - education, women and children.

"It is poverty that is begetting anti-Americanism" in Pakistan, Mr Rehman argues.

Little Pakistan
Pakistanis in the US have become targets of suspicion since 11 September

Others argue that the US should reduce its barriers to textiles exported from Pakistan.

'Poor behaviour'

However, a recent editorial in the New York Times calls for the US to reduce its dependency on President Musharraf.

"Pakistan's behaviour has fallen well short of what Americans are entitled to expect from an ally in the war on terrorism."

The editorial alleges that Pakistan has not done enough to seal its border with Afghanistan, and that it is providing sanctuary for "Kashmiri terrorists".

It adds that Pakistan has behaved irresponsibly with nuclear weapons and that democracy in the country remains a "distant mirage".

The India factor

During President Musharraf's last visit to the US for talks at Camp David in June, George Bush announced US plans for a $3 billion aid package over five years for Pakistan.

Half of that $3 billion, still to be approved by Congress, is intended for defence spending.

Indian and Pakistani soldiers
Pakistan and India are locked into a nuclear stalemate

Some Pakistani American groups are concerned about moves to place conditions on the sending of such aid to Pakistan - moves they believe to have been influenced by the Indian lobby in Washington.

The US House of Representatives passed an amendment in July that requires the US President to report annually on the measures taken by Pakistan to tackle terrorism - in particular the infiltration of terrorists into India - and to cease the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to any third country.

Pakistan's foreign ministry has said that its government is working with Congress and the Bush administration to try to stop the amendment getting through the senate.

Recent US approval for Israel to sell its Phalcon early- warning radar system to India, which will considerably boost India's defence capabilities, has equally raised eyebrows in neighbouring Pakistan.

Although Pakistan and the US have resumed defence relations, the US has steered clear of agreeing to significant new arms sales.

At a press conference following the Camp David talks, President Bush publicly ruled out giving in to Pakistan's persistent demand to be allowed to acquire US F16 fighter jets - a sale stalled in 1990 because of suspicions over Pakistan's nuclear ambitions.

Democratic values?

The visits of President Musharraf and Prime Minister Jamali also come against the backdrop of a constitutional row within Pakistan over the role of the military in the government.

The opposition alliance of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, is calling on the president to relinquish his role as chief of army staff and the parliament is currently in deadlock over the dispute.

But General Musharraf has refused to give any timetable for giving up his military uniform.

Pakistan's Pashtuns have close ties with Afghanistan

Faiz Rehman argues that the US must be realistic in its relationship with Pakistan. They can't expect an "ideal democracy", he says.

President Musharraf is "a symbol of stability in the region", Mr Rehman argues, and can't be asked to immediately step aside, but he should also be willing to compromise.

And certainly for the time being, despite questions about the quality of democracy in Pakistan, the US seems content to deal with President Musharraf as the leader of Pakistan.

President Bush has praised President Musharraf for his cooperation against terrorism, and the administration is still hoping that Pakistan could agree to send troops to Iraq.

A fortnight ago the joint US-Pakistani Defence Consultative Group met in Washington for the second time since the two countries resumed military cooperation in the aftermath of 11 September.

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