Pakistan Assesses Bush Visit to India

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President Bush travels to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistanis are keeping close watch on the American visit to India. Steve Inskeep talks to Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times in Lahore, about President Bush's South Asian tour.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, the American nuclear deal with India will be of special interest just across the border. Pakistan has been in nuclear competition with India for years and Pakistan is the next stop for President Bush. We've called Najem Sethi. He's editor of the Friday Times, an influential newspaper in Lahore, Pakistan. And I want to ask you first--India, under this deal gets help with civilian nuclear power but gets to keep making nuclear weapons. What are Pakistanis saying about that?

Mr. NAJEM SETHI (Editor, The Friday Times): Pakistanis feel that, you know, Pakistan ought to get the same deal, but deep down in their hearts they know that that's not going to be possible: A) the United States has made that clear for the time being; secondly, they know that they have proliferated and they know their accord isn't as good as India's, but nonetheless, they do think that the United States is applying double standards.

INSKEEP: Pakistanis recognize that Pakistan has provided nuclear information to other places and, therefore, they just don't deserve as good a deal. Is that what you're saying?

Mr. SETHI: I'm saying (unintelligible) they realize that there is a problem but, nonetheless, they think that they're on good behavior now. They've done a lot for the U.S. since 9/11 and they think they have a great relationship with President Bush. They think that they should be exonerated for whatever happened in the past and they should get the same deal as India.

INSKEEP: Now, Mr. Sethi, this is the first presidential visit of an American president since Bill Clinton came in 2000. How has the situation changed since then?

Mr. SETHI: Well, when Mr. Clinton came, Pakistan was seen as a pariah nation with a pariah dictator. Mr. Clinton came to Pakistan, lectured Pakistan on the dos and don'ts of democracy and departed. Mr. Bush comes at a very different time. Pakistan is almost a strategic ally. The U.S. is on march to beef up Pakistan's economy and in turn the Pakistani government of President Musharraf has done a lot to help the U.S. in the war against terror. So, in that sense (unintelligible) it's a very close relationship right now.

INSKEEP: September 11 turned President Pervez Musharraf into an ally that the United States could not afford to lecture too much on democracy.

Mr. SETHI: That's absolutely true and in a sense it's been good for Pakistan, too, that things that Pakistan ought to have done off it's own back, in a sense, it was good that the U.S. pushed Pakistan to take some hard decisions. So, in that sense, Musharraf's relationship with the U.S. has been good.

INSKEEP: What hard decisions do you mean?

Mr. SETHI: I meant, you know, taking action against terrorism and not mollycoddling the mullahs and generally looking at things that were bringing Pakistan into disrepute. If only Musharraf had done this before 9/11, things would have been better, but at the end of the day, it's, you know, belated decisions (unintelligible) have done good for Pakistan's economy and politics.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much. That's Najem Sethi, editor of the Friday Times in Lahore, Pakistan. And, again, the President is moving on from India for talks in Pakistan on Saturday.

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