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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 12:23 GMT
Analysis: Clinton's Pakistan compromise
Indian soldiers in Kashmir
It's unlikely Mr Clinton will want to get involved in Kashmir
By South Asia regional analyst Alastair Lawson

As soon as President Clinton's tour of South Asia was announced last year, he faced a dilemma about Pakistan.

Pakistan in crisis
If he included Islamabad on his itinerary, he would be accused of sanctioning October's military coup.

But if he avoided meeting General Musharraf, he would be accused of ostracising an unstable country that has recently acquired nuclear weapons.

In the event, and after many weeks of deliberations, Washington appears to have opted for what amounts to a compromise: a brief stop-off in Pakistan on his way back to America at the end of his South Asia tour.

Inevitably, his decision has been portrayed by Pakistan as a victory for Pakistani diplomacy.

For India, it is something of a rebuff as it has in recent months been intensively lobbying Washington to designate Pakistan a terrorist state.

Democratic rule

President Clinton will use his time in Pakistan to lobby General Musharraf over three key issues.

Pakistani soldiers during the coup
No timetable yet for restoring democracy
First and foremost, he wants the general to provide a timetable for Pakistan's return to democracy.

From the outset, Washington has condemned the takeover, even if it has been reluctant to implement sanctions against General Musharraf's regime.

The White House has made clear that President Clinton is making his visit because he's a friend of the Pakistani nation, not because he approves of the military government.

Terrorism

Secondly, he wants Pakistan to take action against what he says are terrorist groups operating from bases in Pakistan.

Prominent among these is the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen group, which is widely believed to have been responsible for the recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden
Osmama bin Laden: Clinton will want Pakistan to use its influence
The president will also no doubt be eager to persuade Pakistan to use its influence over Afghanistan to bring the Saudi dissident, Osama Bin Laden, to justice.

He is wanted in the United States on terrorist charges relating to the bombings of American embassies in Africa in 1998.

Nuclear worries

Thirdly, the president will continue his campaign to persuade Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The president may find himself in a difficult position here, because the United States Senate has also refused to sign it.

India's Prithvi missile
The US wants to stop a South Asia arms race
General Musharraf is likely to point out that he cannot sign the CTBT unless India does, and recently Delhi has shown little enthusiasm.

However, it may be that America - as a long standing ally of Pakistan dating back to Cold War days - will be able to persuade Islamabad at least to reconsider its refusal to sign the treaty.

While Pakistan says that it hopes the president's visit to South Asia may pave the way for what it calls a just solution to the Kashmir question, it is highly unlikely President Clinton will want to be involved.

India is vigorously opposed to foreign intervention and the president is likely to respect Delhi's sensitivities, while simultaneously calling for the two sides to lower the level of tension.

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See also:

08 Mar 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan hails Clinton visit
25 Feb 00 |  South Asia
India urges Clinton to shun Islamabad
16 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Intense lobbying over Clinton visit
03 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan urges Clinton visit
01 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Clinton to visit India
18 Feb 00 |  Talking Point
Should Bill Clinton go to Islamabad?
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