|HOME | NEWS | THE KARGIL CRISIS | REPORT|
June 27, 1999
US may turn the economic screw on Pakistan
C K Arora in Washington
The United States may block the International Monetary Fund's disbursement of $100 million, due for release in a few days, to Pakistan as a follow-up to General Anthony Zinni's mission to put pressure on Islamabad to withdraw its troops from Kargil.
An indication to this effect was given by sources in the Clinton administration after General Zinni, commander-in-chief of the US central command, returned yesterday from Islamabad.
The amount is the next instalment of the $1.56 billion IMF bailout package for Pakistan's battered economy.
President Bill Clinton had sent General Zinni and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gibson Lanpher to Islamabad to tell Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and his military commanders to pull back to their side of the Line of Control.
"What happens next will depend on Gen Zinni's assessment of Pakistan's response," said The Washington Post quoting a senior official, who noted that "impoverished Pakistan cannot afford full-scale war and is counting on receiving a $100 million loan next month from the IMF. Washington could hold up those funds to pressure Pakistan."
The IMF disbursed the last instalment of $51 million on May 24, which evoked criticism. "Uninterrupted economic assistance during a crisis of this magnitude subsidises military adventurism," remarked well-known South Asia expert Selig Harrison in a recent article.
The Post said Clinton acted after receiving an "alarming" letter from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Geneva earlier this month. The American president had gone there to make a speech at the International Labour Organisation.
Vajpayee's message was that India might have to launch attacks inside Pakistan if the latter does not pull back troops which had seized Indian outposts in Kashmir.
It stoked already high US fears that India, which has lost more than 150 soldiers trying to dislodge the Pakistanis, would storm across the cease-fire line that divides Kashmir or open a second front elsewhere on the border with Pakistan, widening the first armed conflict between the neighbours since both tested nuclear weapons last year.
Clinton faced the possibility that some 700 Pakistani troops, camped on firebases 16,000 feet up in the Himalayas, could destroy the rapprochement India and Pakistan began last winter, ignite a regional war, and scuttle America's dwindling hopes of a constructive new relationship with all of South Asia, the daily added.
The president and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had already sent multiple messages urging restraint to India and Pakistan. After National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl F Inderfurth received Vajpayee's message in Geneva, Clinton decided to turn up the heat on Pakistan, the daily said quoting senior officials.
First he persuaded the Group of Eight to include in its communique last weekend a statement condemning the "infiltration of armed intruders" and demanding "full respect" for the de facto border known as the Line of Control.
Importantly, the statement did not call for a cease-fire, an implicit acknowledgement of India's right to defend its territory.
"We are not making any predictions," The Post quoted a senior administrative official as having said. "It could get worse, if the Indians reach the level of frustration that they need to strike somewhere else."
That concern rose after Vajpayee's letter, because it told Clinton that the spectacle of Indian troops coming down from the mountains in body bags was raising public pressure on the government.
The daily said Pakistan's incursion into Kashmir has turned US diplomacy upside down. A year ago, the Clinton administration was orchestrating an international campaign of condemnation against India after Vajpayee's government tested nuclear weapons.
Pakistan followed with its own tests, but Washington expressed understanding of the pressures that led to that decision and looked for ways to ease the mandatory economic sanctions triggered by Islamabad's tests.
Now India is drawing praise for its restraint in the Kashmir conflict, and it is Pakistan that is facing the flak.
After initially promising public neutrality, the daily pointed out, Clinton has authorised US officials to say there is no doubt that the intruders on the Indian side of the line are Pakistani soldiers, as India says, not Kashmiri separatist guerillas, as Pakistan has claimed.
There may be a handful of the Islamic militant irregulars known as mujahideen with the troops, one senior official said, but most of the invaders are regulars from the 10th Corps of the Pakistan Army.
"Pakistan is the instigator here," a senior administration official said. "Pakistan has to figure out how to restore the status quo ante."
The daily quoted "US officials" as saying they do not expect the 50-year dispute between India and Pakistan over who should possess Kashmir to be resolved soon. But they insist that Pakistan pull its troops back across the cease-fire line and return to the negotiating table.
"Quick compliance is essential," the officials said, "because the road cut off by Pakistani shelling, the only supply route to two Indian towns, will be closed by snow after early September, and India is determined to clear [out the invaders] before then."
The daily also quoted Inderfurth as saying, "We did not think the next stop of the diplomacy bus would be Kargil."
The daily said US intelligence analysts have offered several reasons why Pakistan would risk international condemnation, and war with a nuclear-armed neighbour, for a relatively minor territorial advantage.
One is an attempt to force the Kashmir issue into an international forum such as the United Nations. Another possibility is that senior Pakistani military officers wanted to abort the Lahore peace process, although some US officials discount this theory, saying Sharief cleared the Lahore initiative with the leadership of the armed forces.
BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK