April/May 1994, Page 55
U.S. Uncertainty Over Proliferation, Kashmir Policies Creates Gridlock
By M. M. Ali
American concerns in South Asia, as candidly stated by Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel at a February State Department luncheon, are to secure peace in the region, protect human rights and help in sustainable economic development through democratic institutions. These objectives can be furthered, she explained, by removing dangers like nuclear proliferation; solving serious problems between India and Pakistan like the Kashmir issue; monitoring human rights violations in places like Kashmir; and by assisting in development programs with democracy and privatization as the main tools of change.
These all are laudable objectives, and not too different from those espoused by previous administrations. Meanwhile India objects, Pakistan pushes for a U.N. promised plebiscite in Kashmir, and the U.S. Congress lets the Pressler Amendment stand, blocking U.S. foreign aid to Pakistan as long as it continues its nuclear weapons program.
The Indo-Pak Nuclear Dilemma
There is no question that the existence of nuclear capability in both India and Pakistan, who have already gone to war three times in the second half of this century, poses a definite threat to peace in the region and in the world. A senior Indian journalist told the Washington Report, "It is ironic that the only country that has been guilty of using the atom bomb, not once but twice against other people, should be the one that is counseling rollback on the nuclear capability of a country that has always stood for peace in the world."
On the other side, a Pakistani visiting the U.S. wondered whether his country, now that the Soviets have been forced to withdraw from Afghanistan, would be receiving as much attention from Delhi and Washington if it did not possess nuclear capability. He pointed out that the Reaganite philosophy of peace through strength prevails in Islamabad today. Unfortunately, he added, Pakistan cannot match India in conventional weapons. The only way is through a nuclear deterrent.
There are elements of truth in both viewpoints. India's position is that nuclear nonproliferation should not be applied only to selected countries while others, including the United States, stockpile nuclear weapons. If a treaty is to have meaning, it is argued, it must have universal application. In the Indian context, this means the same rules applied to India should be applied to China. From the Pakistani standpoint, Islamabad will sign the non-proliferation treaty when Delhi does.
Reports have appeared in the U.S. press in recent months that India and Pakistan were on the verge of engaging in a nuclear war at least three times, in 1984, 1986 and 1990. Both New Delhi and Islamabad have denied any such development.
Further, both countries have reminded U.S. intelligence sources that although they have gone to war three times, care was taken to keep the military engagements very confined. Neither side attempted to target the other's cities. Fears of a nuclear holocaust in the subcontinent are being attributed by the South Asian public to American paranoia.
Whether the U.S. analyses are exaggerated or well-founded, there is no denying that the nuclear issue casts a long shadow over the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. What is woeful is that the majority of both populations are living way below poverty levels. Yet both governments are spending large sums on conventional and nuclear weapons.
The post-Cold War United States has considerable leverage in almost all parts of the world. Unfortunately, it appears hung up on Russia in its present foreign policy, and consistency seems missing from U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's medicine bags. Further, if the Clinton administration's policy on Bosnia is any guide, the president of the United States seems to suffer from the fatal indecisiveness of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
It is understandable, therefore, for countries in the subcontinent to wait and see after Clinton or his representatives, like Robin Raphel, issue ultimatums. Assuming that the U.S. government means business in South Asia, what are its priorities?
For example, will the United States give the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and a rollback of nuclear programs in India and Pakistan top priority? Or will the U.S. push first for settlement of dangerous issues like Kashmir? Or, will the Christopher State Department make a simultaneous effort on both fronts? And should the U.S. use economic leverage as well as political and military pressure?
However the questions are answered, it is undeniable that America today occupies an unparalleled position of strength, especially with New Delhi. Is the United States prepared to offer a nuclear umbrella to the subcontinent, protecting India against China and Pakistan against India? How reliable would such a U.S. umbrella be? These are real and existential questions for the people of the subcontinent. The answers can only be sought in Washington.
Privatization Progress In India
India's Finance Minister Manlnohan Singh probably startled some foreign circles when he prefaced a recent statement by saying that elements of socialism will have to be continued alongside current efforts toward privatization in India. The precautionary note was meant only to warn that the Indian economy, after being geared toward the public sector for more than 40 years, cannot make an instant 180-degree turn toward liberalization and free market.
A recent government survey, however, indicates that privatization efforts over the past two years have yielded some good results. Exports have risen by 20 percent and portfolio investments are expected to reach $2.5 billion. India's gold and foreign currency reserves hit a record high of $15 billion. However, last year's forecast of 5 percent economic growth was not realized. India's economic growth rate was 3.8 percent, and the capital goods sector showed a decline of 8.8 percent.
Foreign investors continued to pour money into the soft, consumer goods sectors rather than into manufacturing and infrastructure-creating areas. Demonstrating that India still needs to create confidence among foreign investors, the World Bank reports that -$15 billion were invested in China in 1992, against less than $500 million in India."
Indian Foreign Secretary K. Srinivasan is upbeat, however. "In a few years' time we will get out of the aid syndrome" he predicts. Looking at the present state of the economy, however, the "few years" may seem long and hard.
Provincial Maneuvers in Pakistan
"I am ... satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of NWFP (North West Frontier Province) cannot be carried on in accordance with the constitution, " observed President Farooq Leghari, while dissolving the provincial assembly and imposing governor's rule. This decision of the central government followed attempted "floor crossings" (change of party) in the NWFP assembly which would have caused the Muslim League coalition government to lose its majority.
The speaker of the House disallowed the crossings, which led to an open physical brawl on the floor of the assembly and dismissal by the governor of the NWFP government. The governor's rule is in place and the case is before the courts.
NWFP is the only province where Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has not been able to form a government. The crisis arose because there is a clause in Pakistan's constitution that disallows crossing of the floor. A counter-suggestion now is under consideration to allocate political parties seats in the legislative bodies in proportion to the popular votes Polled by each party. Each party then would have the right to name the occupants of its seats.
This is an old idea, considered and rejected in many democracies. That it would be adopted in Pakistan is highly unlikely in view of the loosely structured political parties, many of which do not have firm economic and political programs.
The NWFP episode has provided former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif an opportunity to revive his political party, the Muslim League, after his close defeat by his arch rival, Bhutto. Sharif has announced a campaign to demand "restoration of democracy" in the NWFP. Although a Supreme Court decision in his favor can revive Sharif s political fortunes and set back Bhutto's PPP, it will not cause political turmoil on the national level.
A similar situation is likely to arise in Azad Kashmir, the portion of the disputed province occupied by Pakistan. There the Muslim League runs the government headed by Sardar Qayyum Khan. Floor crossings also could alter the political equation in the Azad Kashmir assembly, and cause a change.
In both India and Pakistan, governmental stability hangs on the changing loyalties of elected members. Not too long ago Arjun Singh and nine other elected members of India's Lokh Sabha (lower house of parliament) crossed over from the Janata Party and joined the Congress Party giving Prime Minister Narasimha Rao a much-needed clear majority in the House. The shifting political loyalties can work both ways—strengthening a slender government margin, or undermining it.
Privatization in Pakistan
Except for upsetting Mohajir Qaumi Movement members in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad by proposing to carve out a new political constituency in the Malir district outside of Karachi that would split the MQM's hold there, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has concentrated mostly on economic matters.
For the time being, she has not revoked the autonomy granted to the Central Bank by her rival, Mian Nawaz Sharif, in the last days of his administration. Rather she has built on what was bequeathed her by caretaker Prime Minister Moeen Qureshi by launching new privatization.
These included privatizing 26 percent of the $5 billion Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation, which heretofore has been wholly owned by the government. Similar decisions have been made in the development and power sectors, facilitating agreements with the IBRD and other international donor agencies.
The slow pace of free market changes in South Asia are reminders that the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent is a conservative part of the globe, where incremental changes constitute progress. Likewise, small setbacks do not lead to catastrophes. In this manner, the region's countries and cultures have survived for thousands of years.
M. M. Ali is a professor at the University of the District of Columbia.