- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004

No big deal

The U.S. ambassador to India believes Pakistan’s new military status with Washington is a “relatively small item” in U.S. relations with India, although India is upset that there was no forewarning its regional nuclear rival would be declared a “major non-NATO ally.”

Speaking after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced the new status on a visit to Pakistan earlier this month, India’s Foreign Ministry warned that the U.S.-Pakistani partnership will have “significant implications for Indian-U.S. relations.”

But Ambassador David Mulford told Outlook India magazine on Sunday that the Bush administration did not tell India beforehand because it was unsure whether Pakistan was interested in the upgraded military relationship. Pakistan, a frontline U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, will enjoy certain benefits, such as streamlined military sales under the new status, which India does not have.

“It was unclear whether Pakistan was really interested in the issue because we are talking about something here that isn’t absolutely a huge strategic issue,” Mr. Mulford said.

Besides, he added, the U.S. relationship with India is stronger than ever.

“Not every issue has to be seen through the prism of the other relationship,” he said.

On common ground

A group of global optimists in Washington insists on finding the best in mankind, even as the world struggles with terrorist bombings and civil wars.

Search for Common Ground this month presented its humanitarian awards to diplomats, religious leaders, explorers and statesmen, including Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Austrian Ambassador Eva Nowotny hosted the awards presentation at the elegant Austrian Embassy with guests, among them our correspondent Caroline Betancourt.

“We are convinced that Search for Common Ground stands for principles which have governed Austrian domestic and international diplomacy. We use issues that unite and are common to all to solve problems of concern,” the ambassador said.

“When you think back in our history, Austria has had to deal with many different nationalities and religious interests. … Often, we have had to negotiate with our European neighbors to find sustainable solutions. We believe this is the only way to find peace.”

Search for Common Ground, the world’s largest nongovernmental organization dedicated to the peaceful solution of conflicts, presented retired U.S. diplomat Harold Saunders with its lifetime achievement award. Mr. Saunders is a former member of the National Security Council and former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs.

The Rev. James Movel Wuye and Imam Muhammed Nurayn Ashafa received the interfaith award for their efforts to reduce religious violence in Nigeria.

The group also cited the Community of Sant’Egidio for its work in Mozambique; the Pontanima Choir, an interfaith group in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Breaking the Ice, an Antarctica expedition team of four Israelis and four Palestinians.

Bangladeshi stability

The U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh warned the country’s political opposition against trying to bring down the government, arguing that the South Asian nation needs stability.

Ambassador Harry Thomas in a Daily Star interview yesterday criticized the opposition Awami League for setting an April 30 deadline for the ruling coalition to step down, accusing it of failing to control crime.

“The opposition parties should not issue deadlines for the government to step down if democracy is to be put on a sound footing,” he said.

Mr. Thomas argued that the coalition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party should be allowed to fulfill its five-year term, which ends in 2006.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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