Fallout From Mumbai: A Risk To Progress in Pakistan

“This cannot be,” Henry Kissinger once muttered in exasperation when an unexpectedly positive development occurred during a Democratic administration. “The wrong people are doing the right thing.”

By Jim Hoagland, The Washington Post
I have thought of the Kissinger anomaly in recent weeks while watching Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari confound the low expectations he inspired when he took charge of the most dangerous place on Earth in September.

Zardari is the corruption-tainted amateur politician who became president in the wake of the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, late last year. He seemed absolutely the wrong man to handle Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and its collapsing economy or to deal with his country’s support for Islamic terrorist networks.

But Zardari has tackled those problems with courage and pushed for greatly expanded trade and other business links with India. The Bush administration helped the Pakistani leader, in a perverse way, by making clear the limits of U.S. support for him without significant reform.

That initial progress now stands at risk. The multiple terrorist attacks in Mumbai could undo Zardari’s initiatives and bring India and Pakistan back to war footing. Without citing proof, India’s foreign minister is suggesting that “elements with links to Pakistan” carried out the butchery in India’s financial capital.

But it has yet to be shown that Zardari’s government had any role in the attacks. He — and India — have everything to lose by going back to confrontation. Even if undermining Zardari’s outreach is not the goal of the assault on Mumbai, it could be the consequence.

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