The Nation, Lahore

3 Safar, 1419 - Thursday, May 28 , 1998, Lahore Pakistan 


Thank you India!

Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

After the Indian nuclear explosions, the Indian Sub-continent is back in the news in the USA, after a very long time. Even though the U.S. media is notoriously domestic focused but for the last few days, it is giving the first 10 minutes of its TV news and front-page headlines to news relating the nuclear arms race. The good thing which this atomic blast brought for Pakistan is the shattering of the "peace loving" image of India. India has an enormous importance in the world stage by its sheer size (a billion people) and its history of fairly stable democracy in the last 50 years. Pakistan, in contrast, was always portrayed as a spring-board of Islamic fundamentalists like Aimal Kansi and Ramzi Yousaf. The movie Gandhi added a lot to this public image of India as a country with a history of non-violent movements. But now, at least, this image is broken and the beneficiary is Pakistan in a way.

Pakistan is getting a sympathy in the U.S. media. They seem to have understood Pakistan's problems and pressures and its concerns about its own security. Even one U.S. Senator argued about expanding something like NATO which could assure Pakistan of its security. The traditionally Indian-lovers in the media and politics are finding it more and more difficult to defend the reckless action of India.

The local newspaper Seattle Post Intelligence carried a very interesting editorial -- "India blows it by detonating device". The theme was that India has done a big mistake in miscalculating the world response. It finished by saying that -- "But India would earn real respect if its leaders had the wisdom to spend its meagre treasury on alleviating poverty of its citizens instead of trying to scare the neighbours with war-toys that are, in fact , unusable." Other newspapers in USA are really local in nature and it is very rare to see any international news in them but now, most of the local newspaper are filled with analysis and news stories about the Indian nuclear explosion.

In the Senate's hearing on India, the former CIA director James Woolsey has advised to repeal the infamous Pressler Amendment. He said that it was very important that USA should request Pakistan to refrain from its testing and to give her an incentive like the repealing of Pressler Amendment. He recognised the fact that this was a very difficult time for the Pakistani political leaders and also very important to show courage and statesmanship. The Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee Senator Jesse Helms was also of the same opinion that the Indian nuclear test had put Pakistan under much political pressure but the USA should encourage her not to go ahead with atomic bomb testing. The famous Indian supporter, the former representative Stephen Solarz tried very hard to give long excuses for India in this hearing. He told the committee that the weak BJP government in India needed a bomb to strengthen its political position. But another member of committee replied that India did not stop after one or two explosions which could be the answer to a political situation there. India went ahead to complete its five test series, which meant, that there was a military objective and not a political one. Solarz in his lengthy explanation argued that India and Pakistan should be admitted in the Nuclear Club and be known as a nuclear power only if now she agrees to sign different agreements against nuclear proliferation. But nearly everyone in the Committee objected that this would send a very wrong signal to the other countries who will understand that to get membership of the Nuclear Club, they just need first to detonate a few explosions and then sign the treaty.

In the end, the Committee Chairman Brown Beek said that they liked the idea of repealing Pressler Amendment and they would start working on it immediately to quickly process it. Remember, the Pressler Amendment is the discriminatory law against Pakistan which punished Pakistan with different sanctions while India was left alone with its much advanced nuclear program. The F-16s for which Pakistan paid millions of dollars were also withheld under this Amendment.

State Department spokesman James Rubin in his press briefing told reporters that Washington would block billions of dollars of loan guarantees to India in different organisations. He admitted that Washington did not have a veto power in these world financial institutions but as the whole world is showing its disappointment to the Indian attitude, nearly 20 billions dollars in immediate aid programs (guarantees) were at risk.

Most of the Indian students here support their government's decision but the U.S. born Indians don't like the idea and consider it as foolish. Pakistani students here are more cautious and don't support any irrational decision. They think that this is a major decision and should only be made after considering each and every aspect and giving consideration to all the options. They think that this important decision should not be made on the streets or with the newspaper headlines. They are sometimes dismayed by some Pakistanis column-writers' approach who are supporting a hasty decision wholly based on emotions and not on rationale or a long term approach. Both sides have some valid points and they should be considered with a cool mind in order to secure a better future for Pakistan. It is very easy to win local and immediate popularity by making short-term decisions but a real leader is a person who thinks for the nation for the next 25 or 50 years and is not concerned much about the coming elections.

US media is acknowledging the fact that G-8 failed to announce any collective sanctions against India which could be an incentive for Pakistanis who are resisting the local public support of going nuclear. US Senators are now openly offering to give our own F-16s back to us as a favour. But the information minister Mushahid Hussain in an interview very rightly said that this was our merchandise and the USA was not doing any favour to us by returning something for which we already had paid 650 million dollars. Here, if the Pakistani politicians and leaders are successful in encashing this sympathy in Pakistan's favour, it could be very valuable to Pakistan's future but it all depends on high bargaining skills of our leaders. Just remember, how India got immense support from the West after its few-days' war with China in the early sixties. All these weapons were then used in the war against Pakistan.

The good thing which happened with the Indian atomic explosion is that it has opened the eyes of the West which always considered India as a peace-loving follower of Gandhi. People in West had very romantic ideas about India and its mystic peace-loving swamis. They thought of Hinduism as a passive religion which only teaches love and brotherhood. In contrast, we the Pakistanis, were always considered as extremist and fundamentalist. But now, these explosions has proved to be an eye-opener. Now the U.S. public is beginning to learn that the fundamentalist could come from any religion and other than Muslim public and governments, and could be fanatic too. Thank you India!

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