President Bush may just have been snubbed by Gen Musharraf, twice.
Neither Gen Musharraf nor Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz turned up to greet President Bush at Chaklala air base near Islamabad. Unless it was due to those extra-ordinary security measures Musharraf’s is something of a diplomatic slight. The snub becomes even more glaring considering President Bush’s decision to press on with his Pakistan trip after the attack on the US consulate in Karachi that claimed the life of an American foreign service officer.
If it was a snub, who were the primary audience? Surely, Musharraf couldn’t be thinking of impressing upon the Americans his displeasure at Pakistan not being treated on par with India. That was already achieved by his trip to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders shortly before the Bush visit. It was not quite necessary to snub Bush personally, not least because the US president routinely holds up general’s end in public.
Was it to impress the domestic audience then? That appears unlikely. Pakistanis are too well aware of Musharraf’s ‘closeness’ to the United States for them to notice or make much of a nuance.
It just gets curiouser. At the post-meeting press conference, Bush thanked Musharraf for sending his daughter to greet him at the airport. That’s strange, because though press reports mentioned that a girl in traditional costume handed Bush a bouquet, they did not mention that Musharraf’s daughter was there.
That the visit did not go off too well for Musharraf was all too evident at the joint press conference. Part of his mission, Bush said, was to determine whether or not Musharraf was as committed as he has been in the past in the war on terror. Regardless of the affirmative conclusion, that’s just a clever way to say that he has found Musharraf wanting. So was it with nuclear proliferation, where Bush mentioned the ‘well-known differences’ between the histories of Indian and Pakistani nuclear programmes. Bush offered no comfort on Kashmir too keeping to the most anodyne statements in support of the peace process. But the best was the last sentence. Musharraf concluded a his defense of his record on moving towards democracy by saying that it was ‘a long answer’. “Yes” Bush said, “important answer”.
Related Link: CNN’s Mike Chinoy covers this in this video clip