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'Musharraf playing double game'

Policy scholar Dennis Kux says that the Pakistan President has managed to convince US administration that he was 'better than the devil'.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 16:25 IST

A leading American expert on South Asia has accused Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of playing "a double game" on the war against terror.

Describing Pakistan as "the most difficult area" in the region, Dennis Kux told a gathering that while Musharraf cooperated with the US vis-à-vis Al-Qaeda, he did not so in the case of a resurgent Taliban.

"He does play a double game of sorts," said Kux, a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, speaking at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

One reason for Musharraf's ambiguity in the case of the Taliban was the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan where the militia is now active and also due to the pro-Taliban ruling dispensation in Balochistan province.

Warning that the US may be repeating the mistake it committed in the 1980s by promoting the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq, Kux said, "We should be leaning on Musharraf, not publicly but in private. We could be leaning on him more in this area. Too bad it hasn't happened."

Kux, a retired State Department South Asia specialist, who dealt with India and Pakistan for more than two decades, was speaking on 'US and South Asia'.

He covered a broad sweep of how the US looks at the world, and pointed out that South Asia was one region that was "relatively brighter, particularly India".

Kux also said that Musharraf had managed to convince the US administration that he was "better than the devil".

"Musharraf simply hasn't done much," Kux said, referring to issues ranging from social indicators to the war on terror. "He makes some noises and then backs off. You don't see him addressing some of the fundamentals.

"I think we have given him too much of a free ride. But if we walk away from Pakistan, it will not be too good for Musharraf, Pakistan and India."

Kux was highly optimistic about Indo-US relations, crediting Washington with broadening the road map of friendship including on the military front. "Earlier we used to talk at each other, now we talk with one another."

Kux also spoke about the Indian diaspora in the US. "The Indian Americans have not only changed the image of India but built a bridge with India."

He admitted that despite the growing warmth in bilateral ties, there were continuing divergences.

"My own reading is that India doesn't want to get locked in the US embrace. We won't agree about everything. But we agree about many things."

Kux referred to the India-US nuclear deal and remarked that if it got finalised ahead of President George W Bush's upcoming India trip, "it would be a great visit. If not, it would be a good visit."

"The administration's motives are to help India. We see India as a natural balancer (vis-à-vis China), not militarily but politically. Good relations with India are a bipartisan issue in the US."