What U.S. newspapers are saying

May 22, 2002 at 11:19 AM
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New York Times

India and Pakistan are once again firing shells and threats at each other. With a million troops along the border, there is also talk again of war. The United States needs to move quickly to persuade the two sides to pull back from what could slip into a nuclear confrontation.

As always, the dispute centers on the Muslim-dominated northern Indian state of Kashmir, where Islamic militants have stepped up their attacks on civilians. Yesterday the militants murdered a moderate Muslim leader from Kashmir, Abdul Ghani Lone. India accuses Pakistan of being behind the recent violent actions. Pakistan continues to reject that charge, asserting that the attacks on India are being conducted by indigenous freedom fighters.

The India-Pakistan border has been a source of trouble since the two countries were carved out of the British Empire in 1947. But since 1998, when both tested nuclear weapons, their dispute has commanded the world's attention. ...

There is blame on both sides. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's leader, took courageous measures last year against Islamic militants. He helped oust the Taliban in Afghanistan and demanded a shutdown of militants' operations on Pakistani soil. But of the 2,000 suspected militants arrested some months ago, most appear to have been released.

For its part, India was quick to mobilize for a full-scale war against Pakistan last winter, even though there was never any evidence of a threat of a Pakistani invasion. India has wrongly rejected the idea of outside intervention by the United States or other countries. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has also erred by increasing military pressure to a level where it may be difficult for India to back out of starting a war. If such thinking is allowed to settle in New Delhi, the consequences will be catastrophic.

Washington Post

The announcement of two important security agreements between Russia and the West and the approach of this week's summit meeting between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have triggered a round of euphoric rhetoric. It is widely proclaimed that Mr. Putin is leading Russia to "join the West"; the Bush administration's ambassador to Moscow, Sandy Vershbow, last week spoke of the United States and Russia "increasingly becoming allies in the full sense of the term." Certainly the new agreements, on reductions of nuclear weapons and cooperation between Russia and NATO, are welcome, even if both offer more in political symbolism than in substance. So is Mr. Putin's willingness to cooperate with the war on terrorism. But before the lovefest in St. Petersburg gets fully underway, it's worth pointing out that, in both foreign and domestic policy, Mr. Putin's state continues to differ dramatically from the democracies that are genuine U.S. allies. ...

Mr. Putin's admirers argue that he is ahead of his elite in cooperating with the West, and so cannot easily control these clashing policies or others, such as Russia's continuing sales of nuclear technology to Iran. But Mr. Putin's personal stamp is as much on Russia's handling of Belarus and Chechnya as it is on relations with NATO; it's just that the latter gets much more attention in the West. That doesn't mean his moves toward strategic cooperation with Mr. Bush are not genuine. But Mr. Putin's policies make more sense, and no longer seem so contradictory, if they are understood not as the revolutionary steps of a Russian Thomas Jefferson but as the more pragmatic efforts of a hard-headed former KGB officer to restore Russian influence in the world by the best available means. Some days that means collaborating with the world's most powerful democracy, which in any case Russia is too weak to oppose; on other days, it means trampling on democrats and democratic values both abroad and at home. There's nothing wrong in Mr. Bush's striking deals with such a leader, or in doing as much as possible to make Russia more like a Western democracy. But it is wrong, and dangerous, to suppose that "joining the West" is Mr. Putin's plan.

Chicago Tribune

The border between India and Pakistan has a plausible claim to be the most dangerous place on the planet. The two nations have a long history of warfare and hostility. They have a million heavily armed soldiers facing each other across the frontier. Both sides have nuclear weapons. Right now, they are shooting at each other.

The State Department says it is on the case. Colin Powell is planning to send Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to the region--in early June. The administration's leisurely pace only confirms the obvious: South Asia has not been treated with anything like the urgency it deserves. What will it take to persuade Washington that the India-Pakistan conflict is about as grave and important as any on earth?

The latest showdown should come as no surprise. The two neighbors have been poised for war at least since December, when an attack on the Indian parliament killed nine people. After that atrocity, blamed on groups sponsored by Pakistan, India demanded that President Pervez Musharraf crack down on terrorists, and President Bush echoed the call. ...

A former head of Indian military operations has published a paper arguing that "escalation from a conventional to a nuclear war, within one or two days of the outbreak of the war, is not implausible."

Yet Washington behaves as though this quarrel were little more than a chronic nuisance. The assumption seems to be that since previous spats have been contained, this one will be as well. ...

That's hard to fathom given the stakes involved here. The India-Pakistan conflict warrants a higher place on the Washington agenda -- now and for the foreseeable future. It shouldn't take a nuclear war to bring that about.

Dallas Morning News

It's something that many American visitors to Europe pick up along with their happy memories and gifts for friends and family back home: a disturbing sense that the United States and Europe are drifting apart. They sense that the rationale for the long, productive friendship may be eroding.

The list of policy variances is long. Europeans tend to support the Kyoto protocol against global warming, the new international criminal court and the treaty to ban nuclear weapons tests. The Bush administration opposes all three. Europeans tend to oppose capital punishment, which still enjoys support in the United States. They tend to be more supportive of Palestinian nationalism than Americans are. They tend to regard President Bush's characterization of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" as simplistic. Most disturbing of all, some of them fear that Washington views their countries as satellites, not partners.

As Mr. Bush arrives in Europe today for a weeklong visit that will include stops in Germany, Russia, France and Italy, he should address the troubling undercurrents in European public opinion. The best way for him to do that is to say until people tire of hearing that the United States values and cherishes Europe. That the military and commercial relationships have brought prosperity and security to both sides of the Atlantic. And that he means to work in respectful concert with Europe to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is correct that "the sensible majority understand that what (Americans and Europeans) have in common is far more important than what divides us." Yet Mr. Bush should not take that majority for granted. He should try to make it grow so that one of the world's most mutually beneficial international relationships may continue to flourish.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Falah Abdelhak arrived in the United States in 1988 on a 6-month visa and has remained in the country illegally since then. The 35-year-old Moroccan recently has been accused of threatening a Muslim leader in Hawaii and has the audacity to contest his deportation. His case cries out for the need to increase the enforcement of immigration laws.

The ease with which foreigners are able to elude the scrutiny of the Immigration and Naturalization Service after entering the United States has created the impression -- an accurate one -- that successfully crossing the border makes them home free in the United States. That understanding has resulted in the wholesale sneaking of people into the country, by truckload from Mexico to California or in shipping containers from Asia to Hawaii.

With only 2,000 agents to seek out more than 7 million illegal aliens, the INS obviously needs help. The Justice Department has drafted a legal opinion that would give state and local police agencies the power to enforce immigration laws. Those agencies should be willing to assist in fighting a problem that facilitated the Sept. 11 attacks on America. ...

The Census Bureau estimates that 440,000 Hawaii residents -- more than one-third of the state's population -- are immigrants or children of immigrants, while about 9,000 are here illegally. Law-abiding immigrants should not take offense at efforts to identity and deport illegal aliens.

San Francisco Chronicle

When the Democratic Republic of East Timor was born Monday, it was a victory for both the long-suffering Timorese people and the United Nations.

East Timor's independence marks the end of a bloody odyssey that has cost the lives of nearly 200,000 people, one-quarter of the current total population, since Indonesia invaded and occupied it in 1975.

Monday's ceremony symbolically joined rebel and occupier -- the new president, Jose Alexandre Gusmao, who was imprisoned by Indonesia for seven years, and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who defied heavy pressure from her government's hard-liners by attending. ...

The Bush administration, which is considering lifting the suspension of military aid to Indonesia, should demand that high-ranking human-rights abusers be brought to justice before Megawati gets new aid. ...

Success doesn't come cheap. It's a lesson that the Bush administration should take heed of as it makes plans for Afghanistan, whose population is 50 times greater than East Timor's, and whose needs are equally dire.

(Compiled by United Press International.)

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