International Papers

Crime and Punishment

Dublin newspapers Thursday urged a “yes” vote in Friday’s two referendums, in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, on the political settlement for Ulster. The Irish Times, reporting a resurgence in Ulster Protestant support for the agreement, said in an editorial: “Yes gives a chance–a good chance–for peace and stability. No leads back to despair and violence.” The Irish Independent carried an editorial page article by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern appealing strongly for a yea vote. “The good reputation of the island will be immeasurably enhanced, if we can cast off the negative impression of conflict, as President Clinton has pointed out,” Ahern said.

The Times of London said in an editorial that, although “there are a thousand devils in the details” of the agreement, “democrats should accept the convenient rather than insist on the perfect: they should vote ‘yes.’ ” The Times also warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair that “he must stand by his pledge that there will be no fudge between democracy and terror.” If he fails to insist on the decommissioning of weapons before paramilitaries could hold office in the new Northern Ireland assembly, democrats will “be entitled to walk away from an agreement which Mr. Blair had dishonoured.” The conservative Daily Telegraph, which is strongly supportive of the Ulster Unionists, highlighted the agreement’s weaknesses and, while not recommending a “no” vote, said in an editorial that if a majority of the Unionists were to vote negative, their decision should be respected. “Let no one outside Ulster dare accuse them of bigotry or belligerence,” it said. “In voting No, they too will be expressing their desire for peace, and their sorrowful belief that it is not, in reality, on offer.”

As President Suharto resigned in Indonesia, a commentary written just beforehand by Simon Beck for the South China Morning Post said that the U.S. response to the crisis in Indonesia had been “so low-key some critics believe it to be almost non-existent.” The main reason for Washington’s great caution, he explained, was that following the end of the Communist threat, the United States’ present “biggest headache is that the collapse of a major trading partner will cause a domino effect across the world’s economies.”

As three U.S. senators prepared to hold talks in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday with that country’s leaders, the paper Dawn reported that a Pakistani parliamentary delegation is also going to Washington but that “no one on the Pakistani or the US side has any idea of what they are going to do or say to officials and congressmen on the Hill.” Predicting that the delegates would be subjected to continuous U.S. cross-examination about Pakistan’s nuclear intentions, an unidentified “Pakistani diplomat in Washington” told the newspaper’s correspondent there that they should have chosen a better time to come to the United States “on a junket.”

“Why to spoil the fun they want to have at this time when every American wants to know what Pakistan is doing,” the diplomat said. “And if they want to know what the Americans are doing, sadly the Americans do not know it themselves.” In an op-ed piece in Dawn, former Pakistani Finance Minister Mahbubul Haq said that Pakistan, which for the past 10 years has “suffered the wrath of the global community on the nuclear issue,” should now “make the international community ashamed of itself through its nuclear restraint and ensure that it is India that is treated as a pariah nation.”

The Deccan Chronicle of India said the United States has overreacted to India’s nuclear tests with a punishment that is not merely heavy but also “rather vengeful.” In an editorial Thursday, it said there was “an element of contradiction” in President Clinton’s current policy of unleashing all permissible sanctions against India while offering “every gift in its possession” to Pakistan to stop it carrying out nuclear tests in retaliation. If his aim was to prevent a nuclear confrontation between Pakistan and India, then “the same purpose would obviously be achieved by allowing Pakistan to conduct the tests so that the principle of mutual nuclear deterrence would automatically come into force and nuclear confrontation can be ruled out for ever.” “However, President Clinton obviously wants to establish the point that the US is the sole leader of the global disarmanent movement,” it said.

In an editorial Thursday, the Manila Times of the Philippines said that “the imagery of the bomb–the mushroom cloud, the ticking clock–has suddenly re-entered the public consciousness once more as India, in full view of the world, conducted five nuclear tests and then proceeded to declare itself a nuclear weapons state.” The editorial described India as “an overpopulated country with a fractious, hungry population, an unstable government, and age-old hatred with its neighbours” and said “the world has good reason to be nervous” about that country’s new nuclear capabilities. “It looks like the bad old days are back again,” it concluded.