United States' Democracy Thrust in South Asia is Selective

In the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War, Michael Mandelbaum, a noted American scholar while on a visit to New Delhi made a striking observation on the course of United States diplomacy in the post-Cold War era. He noted that now that the ideological war between Capitalism and Communism had ended with a victory for the United States, a new ideological cause would be needed to sustain American foreign policy. He predicted that the new ideological crusade of the United States would be the crusade to promote democracy and human rights worldwide as both these values have a significant resonance in American minds.

The United States, as predicted, has been vigorously campaigning for this noble cause, ever since. The United States on the basis of these two pillars of its foreign policy justified its military interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and elsewhere. The Bush Administration has been more than active on these two counts as compared to other previous US Administrations.

In a messianic tone, in his Second Presidential Inaugural Speech, President Bush made the following points pertaining to his foreign policy thrust:

  • "We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and nation. The moral choice between oppression which is always wrong and freedom, which is eternally right."

  • "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

  • " USA will follow an aggressive foreign policy to extend freedom and liberty throughout the world."

South Asia is home to the world's largest functional democracy in the world. It has also consistently demonstrated political maturity in that all regime changes have taken place through the ballot and not the bullet. India therefore fully subscribes to President Bush's declared vision of an aggressive policy to ensure democracy prevails and democratic regimes emerge in South Asia at least.

South Asia, regrettably, also highlights that the United States has not lived up to its declared objectives of President Bush.

Pakistan stands out starkly in South Asia as a nation in which the United States has been permissive and continues to do so in allowing General Musharraf to continue to trample on the movements for restoration of democracy and human rights. In the case of Pakistan, the United States has opened itself to charges of double-standards and selective application of its declared principles.

When the United States makes noises calling for restoration of democracy in Nepal or Myanmar or elsewhere, it conveniently forgets that people worldwide would cite the Pakistani case as an example of its selective approach in espousing democracy.

Pakistan's credentials in terms of suppression of democracy and human rights, therefore needs to be highlighted for the benefit of the American audience who highly cherish these values.

  • General Musharraf dislodged a legally elected civilian government which came into power with an overwhelming vote.

  • The Pakistan Army overthrew the Nawaz Sharif government not because there was a breakdown of law and order or an external threat.

  • It was overthrown because he dismissed General Musharraf who was preparing for a coup and in this run-up was expressly forbidden to do so by the United States.

  • General Musharraf forced into exile Pakistan's two mass political leaders Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto so that they do not become the focal points of political mass movements for restoration of democracy. They continue to be in exile.

  • " The three assassination attempts against the person of General Musharraf from the rank and file of the Pakistani Armed Forces in the last two years are indicative of the disgust of the Pakistani masses including the uniformed personnel of the suppressive governance of the Pakistan Army.

The United States needs to become alive to the following political realities:

  • The Pakistan Army has ruled Pakistan for more than half its existence

  • The Pakistan Army forced Pakistan into four wars with India and nuclearisation at the cost of the nation's development and poverty alleviation.

  • The Pakistan Army has been traditionally suppressive of political dissent. This led to the civil war in 1971 leading to the dismemberment of Pakistan.

  • It is now engaged in the suppression of dissent in Baluchistan and the Northern Area of Occupied Kashmir.

  • In terms of contempt of human rights, nothing could be more atrocious than General Musharraf's remarks in September 2005 in New York that Pakistani women welcome rape in return for foreign visas. A later denial led the American newspaper to call him a 'liar' as it had a recording of the remarks.

Pakistan has always lost out on democracy as whenever the polity was striking roots in Pakistan, at that opportune moment some United States' strategic expediency would call for perpetuation of Pakistan Army in Pakistan to serve United States national security interest. It happened during all the extended four military regimes in Pakistan' sad history.

The sad conclusion from the above is that it is not only the Pakistan Army which stands as an impregnable wall between the Pakistani people and their yearning for democracy and human rights but also it is the United States which buttresses the Pakistan Army rule.

There is no deliverance for the Pakistani peoples aspirations for democracy and human rights until the United States begins delivering on the principles enunciated by President Bush: " It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Strangely the US Congress has not made much noise on this nor the usually very vigilant US media. Unlike the swarm of political dissident organizations that congest Washington, supported by the US Establishment from the Middle East to China clamoring for democracy in their homelands, there seems to be no evidence of any such one from Pakistan. The conclusion is obvious. The United States is lukewarm in its support of democracy in Pakistan.

The world's most powerful nation must not only be articulate in the propagation of its ideals and principles but equally assertive in enforcing them. South Asia waits patiently and the Pakistani masses impatiently for President Bush to assert his vision of democracy by bringing this about in Pakistan ' America' staunch ally and a Major Non-NATO Ally.   


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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