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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pakistan to Seek Calm With West




ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The new military-led government in Pakistan is likely to pursue foreign policies that are acceptable and even pleasantly surprising to the Clinton administration, according to a variety of Pakistani and foreign observers. The exception could be that Pakistan maintains its close and strategic relationship with the radical Moslem Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan.


For now at least, the new government is unlikely to pursue the kind of aggressive policies toward India, such as the recent 10-week border clash initiated by Pakistan in May, that have alarmed and irritated the West, the sources said.


The tense security climate between the longtime rivals, both of which have nuclear weapons, may actually improve under the government now headed by General Pervaiz Musharraf, the 56-year-old career officer who seized power from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a week ago.


The new regime will seek to avoid trouble abroad, in part because its overriding priorities will be domestic, according to military officials and specialists here. It especially wants to reform corrupt political institutions and revive the near-bankrupt economy.


Experts in both India and Pakistan said they expect the Musharraf government to seek a stable and improved relationship with India. Musharraf was army chief when Pakistan sent fighters into the Kargil mountains of the disputed Kashmir border territory last summer. But the experts said his new responsibilities at home, and his country's desperate need for Western financial aid, are likely to keep Pakistan from meddling abroad.


"He is not going to engage in any new misadventure because the economy won't permit it and the world won't accept it,'' said Jasjit Singh, director of the Institute for Strategic and Defense Analysis in New Delhi.


"In this situation, we must engage Pakistan and keep the doors of dialogue open, although we must also keep our eyes open and our powder dry.''


Several U.S. and European diplomats said they had a sense his government might support Western concerns in the subcontinent, ranging from terrorism by Islamic fundamentalist groups to the threat of nuclear war. "There are opportunities that were not there before,'' one diplomat said.


The one area in which Musharraf's foreign policies may quickly clash with the wishes of Washington is Afghan relations. The country is ruled by the Taliban fundamentalist Islamic regime, and Pakistan has maintained close ties with it. Some diplomats said, however, that Musharraf is worried about the spread of Islamic terrorism in Pakistan.


The general is widely described as a religious moderate who views religious extremism as a threat to domestic and regional stability. But large segments of the Pakistani military are conservative Moslems, and they view the relationship with Afghanistan as sacrosanct.


"We were the first to recognize the Taliban, and we thought we could influence them. We didn't realize what a vicious cauldron we would become a party to or what this would do to the world's perception of us,'' said one former Pakistani army chief.


"Perhaps the new government will realize there is an alternative to this self-defeating policy.''