Friday, July 02, 2004

Sense and sensibility

Here, sans frills, are a few news items culled from papers in the US, over the past 24 hours:

1. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says Pakistan will conduct an important missile test in two month's time, and stresses that its nuclear and missile programs remain irreversible.

2. The United States warned Thursday that Pakistan's move to conduct a key missile test revived dangers posed by nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as well as of an arms race in South Asia.

"On the issue of missile tests, we clearly remain deeply concerned about the dangers that continue to be posed by both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in South Asia," US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.

3. Pakistan will not roll back its nuclear weapons program and its plans to carry out another missile test within two months, President Pervez Musharraf said. In remarks to domestic journalists Wednesday, Musharraf said there was no pressure on Pakistan from the United States to slow atomic arms development despite a damaging proliferation scandal involving one of its top nuclear scientists.

"It is a joke," Musharraf said, responding to a question about possible US pressure. "We are conducting a missile test every second day. I give you important news that within two months Pakistan will conduct a big missile test," he said in remarks quoted by the Urdu-language Jang newspaper. China's Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying Pakistan would conduct an important "nuclear" test, adding that he did not specify whether he meant a nuclear bomb or a missile.

4. Expressing deep concern over a statement made by President Pervez Musharraf, the US has cautioned India and Pakistan against engaging in an arms race. The US was reacting to Musharraf's statement that he would continue Pakistan's nuclear programme and test latest missiles within a few months.

During the State Department briefing Thursday, deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said: "On the issue of missile tests, we clearly remain deeply concerned about the dangers that continue to be posed by both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in South Asia. "We continue to urge Pakistan and India to take steps to prevent an arms race and to guard against possible nuclear use."

5. In a sign of growing concern over Islamic militants' training camps in Pakistan, the Department of Homeland Security has ordered its inspectors at America's largest airports to scrutinize all travelers of Pakistani descent — including U.S. citizens — in an effort to catch terrorist trainees who might try to enter the United States, officials said Wednesday.

In its warning, which began circulating June 17, the Customs and Border Protection agency requested intensified searches at checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport and at the main international airports in New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit and Newark, N.J.

6. Stung by the US' decision to check its nationals for injuries like rope burns, unusual bruises, and scars which might have occurred by training in terror camps, an apparently humiliated Pakistan has strongly taken up the issue with Washington, The Nation reported Friday.

It decried as unwarranted the US order requiring its inspectors at the major airports to closely examine all the passengers of Pakistani descent for any terrorist links. "We have taken up the matter with the US authorities," Mohammad Sadiq, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Pakistan embassy in Washington, told the paper. "It is not only unfortunate, but based on ignorance. Warnings like these........harm a lot to us, Pakistani Americans and the Pakistani citizens visiting United States," he reportedly said.

According to the paper, a two-page "action" bulletin of the US Customs and Border Protection Department, released on June 17, says: "The recent intelligence received from Pakistan and elsewhere indicates that people of Pakistani descent are increasingly being identified with 'extremist activities', including supporting and protecting the operations of terrorist training camps in Pakistan."

So, the story thus far: The US believes that people of Pakistani origin, with terrorist links and intentions, are likely to infiltrate into the US and wreck mayhem.

The US believes that Musharraf's planned nuclear test could cause untold dangers in the sub-continent; it warns the Pakistan president to cease and desist -- and Musharraf laughs at the warning, calling it a "joke".

So how does the US react? It reacts by rewarding its "ally in the war on terror" by ensuring that it will get more high tech weaponry. Here's the story:

The US is encouraging its European NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) allies to effectively consider Pakistan's requests for purchase of defence equipment, including used F-16 fighter planes, from European countries.

The US' request assumes significance as it comes ahead of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's visit to two European sates. According to The News, Islamabad had made several formal requests for purchase of defence equipment from different European countries.

Quoting sources, the paper said that after completing all formalities involved in declaring Pakistan a major Non-NATO ally, the US had now officially decided to provide help in strengthening the country's defence and security for playing a vital role in international war against terror.

Does all this give you the impression, as it does me, that US foreign policy is being run by a bunch of congenital idiots?

That it moves in mysterious ways, its blunders to perform?