An IDC Analysis



New Delhi, 06 October 2003

Since 9/11, the UK and Pakistan have been leading allies of the US. While Britain’s credentials to be termed an all-weather supporter of US policies on the international chess board has been impeccable and boldly passed the test of time throughout the cold war, that of Pakistan has seen quite a few ups and downs. During the cold war, Pakistan's geography and anti-Communism stance made it an American favourite. After that in the 90s, the relations began to sour. Washington grew increasingly unhappy over Pakistan's strong support for the Taliban, links with Kashmiri terrorists and covert development of nuclear weapons. Then, in 1999, General Musharraf overthrew the democratically elected government. By abruptly switching sides in Afghanistan and letting Washington use Pakistani bases to fight the Taliban, the military dictator managed to lift Pakistan's status in Washington from pariah to strategic partner. But developments, in the last one year or so for Musharraf and more recently for Tony Blair, have brought clouds over the relationship of these so called natural allies with their primate. We take a deeper view of the dark shadows of this situation.


Beneath the surface of Washington's new closeness with Islamabad, mutual suspicions have continued to fester. Neither country has fully delivered what the other expected, though America's shortcomings and Pakistan's are scarcely equivalent. The Bush administration has withheld trade benefits and advanced weaponry that Pakistan desires. General Musharraf has failed to sever all links with international terrorism. He promised a timely return to democracy and announced he would expel foreign fundamentalists. His actions have fallen short of his words. Although it has cooperated in the arrest of some leaders of al Qaeda, Pakistan has never adequately sealed the Afghan border. That made it possible for key al Qaeda fugitives to escape and now allows Pakistani recruits to join a reviving Taliban. Pakistan still provides Kashmiri terrorists with sanctuary and access to areas bordering Indian-ruled territory. Wresting Kashmir away from India remains an open goal of Pakistani policy, with violence considered a legitimate tool.

Pakistan has also behaved extremely irresponsibly with respect to nuclear weapons. It is well known to America and the world that it has helped both North Korea and Iran develop nuclear weapons technology. Pakistan's own nuclear weapons are thought to be under General Musharraf's control, but in a country whose history has been scarred by repeated military coups, that is not totally reassuring. Furthermore, democracy remains a distant mirage. To what extent Pak’s nuclear assets are under US surveillance is a speculative exercise as it is also reported that some of them have been sent to Saudi Arabia –– though still under Islamabad’s control. Pakistan's help in Afghanistan, though less than ideal, is still needed by the US. Now Washington hopes General Musharraf will contribute Pakistani peacekeeping troops to Iraq. Though Pakistan has said that it would send troops under a United Nations flag, our inference is that Musharraf will not do so quoting internal difficulties, with the radical following and Muslim world’s disfavour as compelling constraints. We are convinced that America must look for ways to reduce its dependence on General Musharraf. Fighting terrorism effectively requires allies untainted by terror to give a helping hand and not become a millstone around the mentor’s neck.

United Kingdom

One man, who more conspicuously than any other in the world, stood beside President Bush as he pushed his case for war against Iraq and then invaded, was the  British Prime Minister Tony Blair. So much so he came to be called an American lap-dog. His vociferous and word for word support gave Bush's war the invaluable tint of multi-lateralism when the United Nations and most of the world's other powers refused to do so. He in fact became Bush’s interlocutor on the world stage and undertook many a diplomatic assignment for Bush in different capitals. Now, with Blair's government sucked into a scandal involving the suicide of a top government weapons expert, obscenity-laced notes written by his top press aide Alistair Campbell, open dissent within the British intelligence community and the widely held perception that the government misled the nation about Iraq's military capabilities in the run-up to the war, he is no longer Washington’s highly visible ally.

The days of Blair supporting the Bush doctrine of unilateral and pre-emptive war seem to be over, at least for now, as he tries to extricate himself from a downhill tumbling at home. Blair's dramatic decline in fortunes as a result of the Hutton Inquiry could not have come at a worse time for Bush. The American president, faced with mounting domestic dissent over his handling of Iraq, appealed to the UN General Assembly two weeks ago to support the remoulding of Iraq. He failed to gather much, if any, new support and many felt, Blair's absence from the United Nations that day only made Bush look more isolated and politically vulnerable. In an effort of bravado, Blair did try, in a run up to UNGA, to mend fences in Bonn with Germany and France for the sake of his US ally but drew a blank. How could he come to his mentor’s side when the situation at home was also reaching a boiling point? An American analyst dubs this as –– "This has hurt President Bush in the sense that Bush is very much now fighting a lone battle on the world stage in terms of defending the record on Iraq”.

Not helping either the British or American governments' standings was the marking of the one-year anniversary of the publication of a British government dossier setting out the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be used at any minute. No such weapons have been found or are now expected to be found. A report said it is now the weapons of rather personnel than mass destruction that may be found in Iraq. The inquiry into the apparent suicide of Dr Kelly, a leading expert on weapons of mass destruction, ended on 26 Sep amid a torrent of extremely serious accusations that could hamstring Blair for the rest of his prime ministerial career. Lord Hutton said that he would be ready to deliver his final report in December. But the damage has, to a large extent, been done. For weeks the British public has heard unprecedented intimate accounts of the workings of the government and the intelligence services. These details have served only to bolster the opinion that Blair led the country to war under questionable pretexts. "There's a strong feeling that we were hoodwinked," said a Labour party leader.

The lawyer representing the Kelly family at the inquiry summed up their position, accusing Hoon of hypocrisy and falsehood. Few observers in Britain think Hoon has many more days left as defense secretary, especially when Hutton delivers his final report in December. Although Hoon, Campbell, Gilligan and a host of other characters have all been directly criticized and damaged by the evidence, Blair himself has come out of it largely personally unscathed. Few in Bush’s White House care about the British defense secretary's career, or even perhaps the suicide of a British official. All of a sudden, however, Bush is increasingly finding a ghostly shadow at his side where Blair till so recently stood. Any public defence of the ally may now be injurious to either in their bid for a second term.

The recently held Labour party conference voted to condemn proposals to create foundation hospitals and called on the government to withdraw the reform from its health and social care bill. The defeat of the Labour leadership, though anticipated, came as a blow to Tony Blair less than 24 hours after his brave speech. Passed on a show of hands, it would appear that the majority of constituency party and trade unions delegates voted to condemn the flagship government policy. Tony Blair faced further defeat at the Labour conference over plans to make pension contributions compulsory for employers. Thus the ally in whose erstwhile empire ‘the sun never set’ appears to the world humbled and defeated in his arrogant support to Bush’s neo-conservative designs in Iraq.

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