ad info

TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards


about Asia Buzz  |  more Asia Buzz

S U B C O N T I N E N T A L   D R I F T
Should He Go?
The message to despots everywhere if Clinton visits Pakistan

January 6, 2000
Web posted at 5 a.m. Hong Kong time, 4 p.m. EDT

This spring, U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to make his first visit to the subcontinent. It will be his first trip there--and one of his last anywhere as President. Naturally, then, the White House is keen for it to be a generally happy affair. But Clinton faces a quandary: to go or not to go?

South Asian of the Year: Chandrababu Naidu
A provincial politician from southern India became a beacon of hope for us all
- Thursday, Dec. 30, 1999

Subcontinental Drift: All Shook Up
Why 1999 was South Asia's most unstable year of the decade
- Thursday, Dec. 23, 1999

Subcontinental Drift: Crunch Time in Colombo
Next Tuesday's election could end the civil war--and not just in Sri Lanka
- Thursday, Dec. 16, 1999

Subcontinental Drift: Those Who Ignore History...
A refresher course on Pakistan's past
- Thursday, Dec. 9, 1999

Subcontinental Drift: Musharraf Talks the Talk
But he walks in a different direction
- Thursday, Dec. 2, 1999

Subcontinental Drift: Words Are Not Enough
The diplomatic art of obfuscation
- Thursday, Nov. 25, 1999

Market Q&A
Each business evening with analysts around the region

The story behind today's news from the editors of Asiaweek

Daily Briefing
Today's headlines from across the region

The question arises because the country is ruled by a military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf--and American presidents are, rightly, loath to doing business with rulers in uniform. The Musharraf regime desperately wants Clinton to visit. It has issued some veiled warnings: if Clinton ignores Islamabad and travels to New Delhi, he will strengthen the anti-American Islamic groups in Pakistan. In an interview with TIME in late November, Musharraf said: "Sidelining Pakistan would be counterproductive. The people of Pakistan would be terribly disappointed, and his absence would give leverage to the extremists here. I would really be disappointed."

The dictator's case is pretty thin. The use of "extremists" as bogeymen is plainly disingenuous. The Islamic fundamentalists Musharraf speaks of loathe America and everything it stands for. They are unlikely to be mollified by a presidential visit; if anything, Clinton's arrival would only heighten their paranoia about Washington's influence in South Asia.

But Musharraf isn't really thinking about his domestic audience when he argues for Islamabad to be included in the presidential itinerary. He wants a Clinton visit for the legitimacy it would confer on his regime in the community of nations. After all, if the leader of the free world were to break bread with the general then surely the rest of the globe--particularly those pesky British and their moralistic Commonwealth--must acknowledge him as Pakistan's rightful ruler. Washington gave Musharraf its tacit approval by failing to condemn his Oct. 12 coup; it was not one of Clinton's finer moments. Now, the dictator wants blessings bestowed in public.

But that is precisely why Clinton should not go: the president of a democracy cannot--should not--legitimize a dictatorship. That would not only send the wrong message to aspiring despots everywhere, it would also hobble any hopes of a return to democracy in Pakistan. No doubt Clinton will steer clear of his own accord if it emerges that Islamabad, as Delhi claims, has links to the Indian Airlines hijackers.

Would, as Musharraf says, the Pakistani people be disappointed if Clinton was to bypass Islamabad? That's far from certain. For one thing, an unelected leader cannot claim to speak for his people. For another, there have been plenty of demonstrations of anti-American sentiment among ordinary Pakistanis: remember the protests at the U.S. bombing of Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan hideouts? Would Musharraf be disappointed? Undoubtedly--and that's a very good reason for Clinton NOT to go.

Write to TIME at
Search for recent Asia Buzz

TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.