Prague, 14 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Pakistan remains the top subject of commentary in the Western press. But the failure of the U.S. to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty also invites commentary, as does European Union expansion.
NEW YORK TIMES: Military control is inevitable
In the New York Times today, former U.S. National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who served under President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985, offers commentary on the coup in Pakistan. He writes that while Pakistan has the "superficial trappings of a democratic system," in fact it is, in his words, "a feudal cabal, now with nuclear weapons, in which a few families struggle with one another to achieve absolute power and are inevitably...corrupted absolutely."
He writes: "In the short term, military control is inevitable and (is) in Pakistan's interest."
McFarlane calls for a meeting to develop a long-term, multilateral strategy for establishing stability in South Asia. He says those present should include leaders from the European Union, the U.S, China, Russia, and Japan as well as India and Pakistan. The meeting should discuss arms control, as well as international economic aid to the region. And it should name an emissary to deal with the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
McFarlane concludes with this: "The world has a huge stake in restraining the centrifugal forces at play in both India and Pakistan. But if efforts to help are to be taken seriously, they must involve a genuine long-term commitment by the great powers, back by financial resources, to bring these two enemies to a modus vivendi."
TIMES: The new rulers are far more likely to work towards overseeing the formation of a civilian government
Victoria Schofield, author of a book on Kashmir, comments in the Times of London that the military coup was, in her words, "business as usual in Pakistan." She writes, "When General Pervez Musharraf dismissed the elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, he was following customary Pakistani practice -- if a government loses credibility, get rid of it."
Schofield says that India may find the military government easier to deal with than a government of what she calls, "domestic extremists."
Writing that the military will probably not set itself up as permanent leaders, Schofield comments: "The new rulers are far more likely to work towards overseeing the formation of a civilian government made up of bureaucrats and technocrats with, perhaps, a caretaker prime minister. It would be an irony if the military takeover provided Pakistan with the opportunity to strengthen its institutions, of which at present the army remains the only stable one left."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Implications for India can only be serious and negative
Brahma Chellaney, an adviser to India's National Security Council, writes in the International Herald Tribune that the coup in Pakistan has "serious ramifications for India." Chellany writes that India is now surrounded by authoritarian states from Afghanistan to Burma.
He says Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons makes military rule in the country particularly dangerous. Chellaney says this: "If Pakistan's internal problems mount and power squabbles weaken central political authority, there will be a risk that renegade military elements or Taliban-type Islamic militias may seek control of nuclear weapons."
The Indian security adviser predicts that India will have to guard against growing links between Afghan's Taliban rulers and the Pakistani military. He warns that coup leader General Musharraf has played a role in training and arming Kashmiri separatists, and adds, "His (Musharraf's) agenda on India is larger than Kashmir. He recently said that even if the Kashmir dispute were resolved, the war against India would continue."
Chellaney concludes with this: "When not in power, the military has dictated to the elected government the India policy it should follow. With the Pakistan military calling the political shots again, the implications for India can only be serious and negative."
WASHINGTON POST: In blocking a test ban the U.S. Senate was absolutely wrong
A Washington Post editorial looks at how the coup in Pakistan affects the nuclear test ban issue. The editorial says: "In Washington, the nuclear test ban treaty is the subject of political gamesmanship. In Pakistan, the unnerving reality of nuclear proliferation is plain for all to see."
The Post warns that the arrival of General Musharraf to power may only accelerate the arms race in South Asia. It urges the Clinton administration to stay in touch and continue a push for returns to democracy.
The editorial comments: "The administration has been right to speak out for democracy but to stop short of punishing Pakistan with sanctions. That is why it must follow up now with efforts to cool tensions between Pakistan and India. And that is why the Senate, in blocking a test ban that might have decelerated an India-Pakistan arms race, was absolutely wrong."
WASHINGTON POST: The defeat sets back incalculably an effort that stretches back decades
The Washington Post devotes a separate editorial to the defeat of the nuclear test ban treaty in the Senate yesterday, where it failed by a vote of 51 to 48. The Post writes: "(The defeat) sets back incalculably an effort that stretches back decades to lessen the threat of nuclear war."
Despite some strong arguments against the treaty, the Post says, ratification was still necessary. It says computer simulation of tests could have kept the U.S. nuclear arsenal reliable. It also argues that even if the treaty couldn't entirely prevent foreign testing, it would make restraint more likely and more verifiable.
The Post openly criticizes the partisan politics played with the treaty, commenting: "Republicans understandably enjoyed the discomfort of Democrats who had pressed for an early vote only to discover -- once their wish was granted -- that they could not prevail. It would have been understandable to let the White House and Democrats squirm for a time to find a way to score a political point -- and then do the right thing for the nation. That's not what happened last night."
NEW YORK TIMES: The Senate's action is a destructive abdication of American leadership on arms control
And the New York Times in an editorial similarly laments the Senate's rejection of the treaty. The New York Times says: "The Senate's action -- its bluntest rebuff of a president on a major international agreement since it voted down Woodrow Wilson's Treaty of Versailles in 1919 -- is a destructive abdication of American leadership on arms control and other international issues."
The Times blames Democratic senators for insisting on addressing the issue this year even though they lacked the 67 votes needed to ratify the treaty. And it blames President Clinton for not campaigning hard enough for the treaty. But The Times places the greatest blame on the Senate majority leader, Republican Trent Lott, who refused to delay the vote until the next Congress was convened.
The editorial says: "After 40 years of bipartisan efforts to make the world safer through arms control treaties, dating back to the Eisenhower administration, it is dismaying that a small band of Republican opponents could abruptly upend American policy."
The Times now warns that nuclear proliferation may spread and the U.S. lead in nuclear arms development could shrink. The editorial also recognizes the heightened danger of nuclear proliferation in South Asia, with this week's military coup in Pakistan.
BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: Slower EU candidature must not be allowed to happen
Turning to expansion of the European Union, in Denmark, Berlingske Tidende runs an editorial calling the opening of negotiations with new countries "happy news." Those new applicant countries are: Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Malta.
But the editorial warns that opening these further negotiations must not hold up enlargement. It urges establishing clear dates for the first wave of EU enlargement.
Berlingske Tidende: "Some of the current members of the EU are skeptical over the enlargement to the East and they may use the fact that there are so many new candidates now as an argument for slower and more detailed candidature talks. This must not be allowed to happen."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The European Commission is engaging in a swindle based on mislabeling
In Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Andreas Oldag says extending membership negotiations to countries that are clearly not ready to join the EU is a "foolhardy course." In his words, "(The EU Commission's) latest progress report in many cases delivers harsh criticisms on the lack of political and economic reforms in the countries which have applied to join the European Union. And yet this does not stop the Commission from going ahead and offering entry negotiations to even more countries in Eastern and Central Europe."
Oldag criticizes Commission President Romano Prodi for overextending the invitations, saying the EU does not have enough money to support countries like Bulgaria and Romania, whose economic output is only 20 to 30 percent the EU average.
Oldag concludes: "By encouraging more and more countries to believe they have a reasonable prospect of becoming EU members in the medium term, the European Commission is engaging in a swindle based on mislabeling. The money simply is not there to take these countries in anytime soon, and it is unfair not to tell them so."
(Anthony Georgieff contributed to this Press Review)