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April 5, 2000
Clinton shuts Cold War chapter in Pakistan
He came, he humiliated, he flew away. That was US President Bill Clinton's visit to Pakistan.
It seemed the main aim of his token visit at the end of a five-day tour of India was to give ''a harsh wake-up call" to Pakistan and according to Lahore's daily The Nation, the ''private drubbing was far harsher'' and ''even more unfriendly than the public one.''
The first sign of its impact was General Pervez Musharraf's interview with London's Financial Times , wherein he conceded that he wields some influence with the battalions of ''freedom fighters'' and was ''now ready to persuade them to scale down their activities."
Within a week of Clinton's departure, indications were that both countries were willing to resolve the 50-year-old dispute over Kashmir.
The US president extended his stopover by almost an hour and 25 minutes in Pakistan which was hailed as ''an achievement'' by many government officials. The president gave a clear-cut message to Pakistan to forget Kashmir, respect the Line of Control, curtail its nuclear programme and redirect precious resources to economic development.
Political analysts have asserted that Clinton has left a grim message for the country. He has clearly stated that there could be no normal relations between the US and Pakistan till democracy is re-established. He also categorically rejected the idea of a third-party mediation in the resolution of the Kashmir conflict.
Aziz Siddiqui, a leading political analyst, said Clinton's visit indicated a clear break from the past. Pakistan's face-off with India had been sustained during all of the cold war years by nothing more than its alliance with the US. That chapter, he said, has now officially been declared shut. The country, thus, for the first time since the early years of independence, faces the prospect of being all on its own.
As far as people of the two countries are concerned, they seem to favour a peaceful settlement of all disputes. They are irked by the travel restrictions which prevent greater interaction between the two countries.
People also believe that politicians on both sides of the border have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
As Clinton pointed out in his speech, there are more pressing problems that face the two countries - water shortages, law and order, load shedding and unemployment.
''It will be fine if we are able to resolve our disputes with India and reduce tension...as of now it would help if we began working towards normalising relations,'' Qayyum, a shop-keeper, said.
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