Close Comfort-February 2005
Musharraf will be Bush’s closest ally in the war on terror
By Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
While British Prime Minister Tony Blair was George Bush’s closest ally in his war on terror during his first term in office, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is expected to occupy this coveted position during Bush’s second term beginning January 20. Between Blair and Musharraf, the latter is far more clever, opportunist and ruthless. Instead of grasping the import of this development which portends grave implications for Jammu and Kashmir and other national security interests, India is amongst three countries in the world, along with Philippines and Poland, which, in two separate global surveys (including one by the BBC) of people, have endorsed that, after 9/11, Bush, in his first stint in office, has enhanced global security. Whilst India’s position may appear non-tempered, exasperating and even shocking, it is not surprising. The majorities of Indian people are impoverished and know little about security matters. The educated and progressive middle class neither understands security matters nor cares about it. For them, the most important issue is personal advancement. A leading Indian English newspaper, The Times of India, in its editorial the day after Bush’s second inauguration captured the mood of these people by writing: ‘A significant reminder of the bonhomie between the two largest democracies is the ever-increasing number of Indians headed for the US.

While visitors from the rest of the world to the US have declined considerably since 9/11, Indians have been flocking to America. Over the past three months the number of US visas issued to Indians has jumped by 12 per cent. This includes a three per cent rise in student visas. If one factors in the two-million-plus Indian American population, our partnership with the US is surely on a sound footing.’ During his official visit to the US in September last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had noted that bilateral relations had touched a new high: ‘India and the US are at present cooperating on a range of security and economic issues.’ Similar sentiments are heard in corridors of the South Block (which houses India’s external affairs and defence ministries), and amongst majority of leading analysts. For example, an Indian external affairs ministry official on the US and Canada desk says, that it depends on the individual how he wishes to see the bilateral relationship, as half-full or half-empty. “Considering that the two countries had little interaction during the Cold War, it is gratifying to note that the US now recognises India as a major power alongside China in Asia,” he says matter-of-factly without hesitation. The truth, of course, is not so simple. To understand the implications of the US-led global war on terror for India, it is appropriate to go back to the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan when Indo-US relations had nosedived.
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