International Papers

Opportunism Knocks

The creation of a U.S.-led multinational coalition against terrorism presents several countries with an opportunity to solve their international relations headaches. An op-ed in the Times of India said Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s pledge of support for the United States’ efforts “spelt out the price for double-crossing the Taliban: Lift sanctions, give us Kashmir and write off our $30 billion debt. These demands do appear excessive considering that the pay-off for supporting the US in the jehad against the erstwhile Soviet Union in the 1980s never quite exceeded $10 billion worth of arms and economic aid. They are also patently unrealistic.” A commentary in Pakistan’s Dawn took a more measured view:

There is a general consensus that Pakistan really had no choice except to agree to US demands for cooperation, and there is also a sense that if properly managed, an opportunity has been provided to the more liberal elements in the establishment to free Pakistan from the albatross of extremist organizations. At the same time, there is fear of convulsions within Pakistan and apprehension … that the collaboration of the military regime with the US might lead to a postponement of the timetable for a return to democratic governance.

According to Dubai’s Khaleej Times, Russia fears that if allied forces launch attacks on Afghanistan from neighboring former-Soviet states, they will never completely withdraw from the region, thus, “the present crisis could end up providing a backdoor entry for Nato troops into a region that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would like to preserve as Russia’s sphere of influence.” Nevertheless, with Chechen rebels inflicting heavy losses on Russian forces (this week the Russians lost eight colonels and two generals when a Chechen missile hit a military helicopter), “closing ranks with the US would appear to be a more attractive proposition.” The Moscow Times’ defense columnist Pavel Felgenhauer suggested that, given the widespread distribution of anti-American religious radicals in Pakistan, “U.S. servicemen may be in as much peril in Pakistan as on Afghan soil.” He concluded that Osama Bin Laden should be left “to rot” in his current hideout:

Afghanistan is not the source of modern terrorism. It is better to confine the troublemakers there, rather than push them out into the high-tech world. In fact, condemning bin Laden to life in Afghanistan could indeed be considered a cruel and unusual punishment.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post saw the events of Sept. 11 as “an opportunity to recast Sino-US relations and move them beyond years of dispute and underlying malaise.” In addition to gaining the U.S. administration’s trust, supporting the international coalition would “reduce China’s own vulnerability to terrorism,” especially in Xinjiang province, where the Muslim separatist movement has received funding, weapons, and training from Afghanistan. The SCMP also reported that the Chinese government ordered mainland media organizations “not to take sides” in covering the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Beijing wants to strike a balance between its desires for rapprochement with Washington and the public’s antipathy to the United States in the wake of the 1999 Belgrade Chinese Embassy bombing and the fallout from this year’s U.S. spy plane incident: “[B]acking US military retaliation could hardly satisfy growing domestic nationalistic feelings and anti-US sentiment.”

The Khaleej Times pointed out that, despite President Bush’s threats against the Taliban regime, “Afghans actually have very little left to lose other than their lives.” Even before the latest round of conflict, there were more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees in neighboring countries (see this “Foreigners” column from May for more on Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis), and recent reports suggest that many more Afghans are trying to flee their country. The paper continued:

Clichés like “untold suffering” no longer adequately convey the depths of despair that millions of Afghans find themselves in, trapped as they are between the despotism of home-grown religious militias and the fury of far away victims of terrorism. Exhausted by two decades of internecine warfare and ravaged by a long-running drought, the country has long disappeared from the map of civilisation, and, if forlorn Afghans are to be believed, could disappear from the international map as well.

No comment: An op-ed in the Jordan Times declared, “Tuesday, Sept. 11, was the United States’ ‘Yom Kippur,’ its ‘Day of Atonement,’ for all the sins its policy makers have committed against other countries and peoples over the past 40-odd years.”