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India-Pakistan editorial

Published by The New York Sun on 2005-03-28

At one level, the Bush Administration's decision to renew sales of F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan can be seen as a reward to an ally in America's fight against global terrorism. At another level, its -- much less publicized -- decision to also offer Pakistan's bitterest rival, India, new opportunities to acquire American military hardware -- including, possibly, Lockheed-Martin's F-16 -- can be viewed as an effort to be politically even-handed with two thin-skinned nuclear powers. And notwithstanding the wailing of liberal Democrats in Washington and their fellow-travelers in New York over a spiraling arms race in the Subcontinent, there's a third dimension to the Bush decision: it opens up unprecedented possibilities for American industries, including military suppliers, especially in India. After long years of bureaucratic socialism, India is opening up its rapidly growing middle-class market of 350 million -- out of 1.2 billion people -- to foreign investors and producers. Pakistan's economy, while not as robust, is also attractive to American capital. Prudent military sales have a way of setting the stage for wider economic opportunities.

But beyond Pakistan's readiness to tackle terrorism, is America getting enough of a payback for its largesse toward the Subcontinent? Even more than arms deals, it's the acceptance and incorporation of democratic values and those of the free market that Pakistan needs to demonstrate. Indian democracy is firmly anchored in its constitution, and its economy increasingly mirrors the free-enterprise approach of America. But there's a lesson to be drawn from India's steadily warm-hearted relationship with America -- its willingness to jettison a long practice of blindly siding with Arab autocracies in their jihad against Israel. In fact, India established diplomatic ties with Israel more than a decade ago, it holds joint military exercises with Israeli forces, and trade between the two countries is flourishing. Now this may not constitute a formal payback to America, but it's certainly evidence of Indian recognition of American sensitivities and political traditions regarding Israel. Moreover, both India and Israel see it in their mutual self-interest to deepen their political, military and economic ties. The Arabs, meanwhile, keep padding their oil invoices to India, and also subject Indian nationals working in the Gulf to humiliations than are often outright abuses of human rights.

We are not saying that Israel should be a litmus test for Pakistan. We understand the dominance of fundamentalist Islamists in President Pervez Musharraf's country, and we also recognize that realpolitik dictates that such is the tenuousness of his position that he cannot be perceived to be a fan of the Jewish state. But it's time that General Musharraf ended his despicable military support of repressive Middle East regimes who have yet to foreswear their dedication to the destruction of Israel and whose societies are redolent with anti-Semitism. Saudi Arabia is a case in point. Saudi royalty relies on the presence of thousands of Pakistani soldiers and intelligence personnel to perpetuate its corrupt rule. King Fahd and assorted Saudi princes maintain lavish homes in Pakistan, where they've been known to host bacchanalian events. Various sheiks in Gulf emirates similarly seek both pleasure and protection from Pakistanis. Syria has very close military ties with General Musharraf's regime, as do Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Oman. These are countries where Jews, let alone Israelis, are simply not welcome.

The Bush Administration has rightly made the spread of democracy and free enterprise into fundamentals of its foreign policy. It's time also to ask America's allies: And what about Israel and Jews? Foreign policy should also be all about underscoring tolerance and cultural liberalism. This country's citizens ask no less of themselves in the unique social laboratory that is America. Why shouldn't others who expect handouts from America be held to the same standards of decency and humanity?

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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