HAVING discovered that he is no longer the flavour of the year for the United States administration, President Musharraf of Pakistan is on a 15-day world tour that takes in Berlin, London, Paris and Washington. After the handshakes are over the President's opening line will presumably be “Remember me?” This is the man who had to face down his own Islamic extremists in order to give the United States easy access to Afghanistan and the Taleban in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001. He will no doubt be asking what continuing economic and political help he can expect in return for the assistance he provided to the anti al-Qaeda coalition. He is too experienced a diplomat to enquire how the search for Osama bin Laden is going but he will certainly feel able to ask when the United States and its friends are going to stabilise Afghanistan. President Musharraf's main concern, however, remains the dispute with India over Kashmir. Although there have been some dove-ish sound from both sides over the last few months, nothing substantial has changed. Pakistan is much the poorer country of the two and this is reflected in a military expenditure of only about one-tenth of India's. Consequently the danger that it would resort to its nuclear weapons if war re-started, as it very nearly did last year, cannot be ruled out. Pakistan needs massive economic assistance to relieve its endemic poverty and assurances that the West will deal even-handedly with it and India.


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