The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder Update #101

May 25, 1989

May 25, 1989 | Backgrounder Update on

What Bush Should Tell Pakistan's Bhutto

(Archived document, may contain errors)

7 5/25/89 .101


(Updating Asian Studies Center.Backgrounder No. 81, "A Guide to U.S.-South Asian Relations," October'.J'4,4988)

.P akistan Prime Minister Benazir ghuiio' arrives on June 5 f6r her first 6fficial visit' to Washington. For Bhutto, the visit offers an imooftint opportunity for Islamabad to -rdaffirni its special relationship with Washington.. In pa@ticular,Pakistan'will be '@'e'eking'assurariceslhat ihe level of U.S. economic and military su n ly $5 billion pport,.which! since 1981 has'toial6d. ear will continue in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal from Afgh9rustan. Bhutto alib hooes'thd visit's in- ternational exposure will help ease th e domestic political and econ.omic preissur6bnher .govern- jii&ft. This pressure' has increased siibstafitiall@ since' Bhutto t6okoffide! last December. She is bding challenged by Pakistan's powi@rful bure'"aucia4and political opposition. At. did'same time, economic pressure has resulted f16mi Nkis@tani\u253\'5fltd i ' ' economy'due to hig@inflation, a shrink- ring ing taii base, a rising foreig4debt,,-And'@-sha'rp'de"eli"n'e hi repatriated galarie's fibbiTdkisitar-Als' working in the Middle East. For Washington, Bhutto's visit offers George Bush the chance to encourage th6. new Prime :Mhu'stir"to" continu'e steps to''edse' rl estr"idians on 6p`p'6'sition politic'Al p'a'rtie-s'* grant new- 'dem-66ratic rights i6 students'and labok''gioups, @fid ijoro've Pakistani efforts''a'gam" sh. drug' nd cord Pakistan's continue vita o e ins 'A& U46cking.'Bush'also can u 'ers d ... I li'l ` upportiggtha''glidn fr@i&in fighters, its' strategic 16c6tidii Adjacent t6 th6 pil-rkh Persian Gulf, andits in 6deiiting influence in tiie' Islamic world. 'Key Strategic Partner. While Bhitto's firsi visit with Bush probablywill not produce-new ;'bilateral initiatives, impoittaini topics shbdld be discuss6d..Topping'this list. is the futurd of U.S.-Pakistan military relaftiohs. After the 1979 SoViet -invasion of Afghanistan and -the rise of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ftim'6 in ][ran, Paki@taift became Washington's key strategic phrtner in' Nor'thwest Asia. -In 198 1, Ronald Reagansiicc6s9fully pushed for..a $33 billion, five-ye@r mi,litary'and 'economic p6ck6ge to Islamabad; Six-years- later, Washington.fenewed its commitment to Islamabad with -a $4.1 billionmilitary and economicaissista .nce package to be provided over six years. Pakistan' has used this aid and its ownfuhds t6 equip its air force with the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter purchased from the General Dynamics Corporation in the U.S. Islamabad now has 49 F-16s. in its inventory; it is expec ted to iic'eiive U.S'. cio':hj@e6i6h@l approval later this year for 60 additional F-16s at a cost'of $1.4 billion. Islamabad also" ha's.iho`v'm'- renlie'wed interest in purchasing the MIA1 Abrams tank from the U.S., which was de"Idtisted"in' PAIstan last summer. In addition, U.S.-Paldstan mi 'litary cooperation includes port visits to Karachi by U.S. warships almost every quaridr and joint PASSAGE Exercises between both navies. Although the Soviets have withdrawn from Afghanistan and the U.S. also appears eager to improve relations gradually with India, Islamabad hopes its strategic military relationship with Washington will continue.

Pakistan's Burden. A se-.ond topid of discussion is the U.S. and Pakistani stake in Afghanistan. During this war, some three million Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan, creating a huge economic burden for Pakistan. Making matters worse, Soviet artillery and air strikes, as well as countless bombs planted in Pakistani bazaars by Afghan government intelligence agents, have claimed hundreds of Pakistani lives. Islamabad, as a result, has continued its strong diplomatic opposition to the Kabul regime and has provided a crucial conduit for U.S. aid to the Afghan Mujahadeen freedom fighters. Bhutto, who has received conflicting advice on how to manage the Afghan situation since taking office, will be looking for reassurances of U.S. support for Pakistan's ongoing opposition to the Kabul regime. A third area of discussion will be the charges that Pakistan is conducting nuclear weapons research. Since 1981, under the terms of the 1978 Symington Amendment barring American aid to non-nuclear weapons countries that refuse to place all of their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, the U.S. has had to certify that Islamabad has not been building a nuclear bomb; this certification is needed for Pakistan to qualify for U.S. aid under the terms of the Amendment. Last November, the Reagan Administration again certified that Islamabad had no bomb, paving the way for $621 million in aid for fiscal year 1990. A waiver is likely to be sought by the Bush Administration later this year for fiscal year 1991. Also to be discussed will be Pakistani measures targeting heroin production in the "Golden Crescent" border region with Afghanistan. Bhutto has taken a personal interest in cracking down on drug trafficking and has made anti-narcotics efforts a priority of her government. U.S. cooperation with Pakistan on these matters is especially important given predictions that "Golden Crescent" heroin production could increase substantially if peace in Afghanistan paves the way for greater poppy cultivation there. Shifting to Economic Help. To underscore the importance of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the Bush Administration should use Bhutto's visit to restate its support for the major U.S. assistance packages started during the Reagan Administration. Such assistance should increasingly focus on economic help, a shift that Islamabad favors. At the same time, the Administration should press hard for the sale to Pakistan of the 60 additional U.S.-made F-16 fighters.The Bush Administration also should use the Bhutto visit to assert its intention of continuing Reagan Administration policies of seeking a nuclear waiver for Pakistan and support to Islamabad for its hard line policy toward Afghanistan. At the same time, Bush should seek a pledge from Bhutto that Pakistan will redouble its efforts at seeking a regional compromise that will put limits and safeguards on nuclear research in South Asia. Such a compromise could head off a nuclear arms race on the subcontinent, a possibility made more serious in the wake of Delhi's May 22 testing of a medium-range ballistic missile. Lastly, Bush should congratulate Bhutto on her anti-narcotics policy and discuss ways in which the U.S. can help improve Pakistani border surveillance to prevent a possible surge of Afgban heroin smuggling into Pakistan. The Bush Administration can secure Pakistan's ongoing cooperation on Afghanistan, help ease Bhutto's domestic pressure by giving her increased international exposure, gain Islamabad's increased cooperation on anti-narcotics efforts, and the maintain the mutual benefits of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic relationship into the 1990s. Kenneth J. Conboy Deputy Director Asian Studies &nter

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