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A Matter of Trust? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The only time President Bush spoke of India and Pakistan as equals is when he urged leaders of both countries to “resolve the issue between themselves.” The issue being Kashmir, an unresolved dispute left behind by the British occupation. In all other matters, Bush found them to be different: “two different countries, with different needs, and different history.” Acknowledging those differences was in the context of justifying the dissimilar American treatment of both countries regarding nuclear cooperation.

Otherwise, and from a historical perspective, it’s rather difficult to spot the differences mentioned by Bush between India and Pakistan. After defeating British occupation, Pakistan seceded from India due to inter-religious conflicts. Later, India conducted nuclear testing, and Pakistan followed suit to achieve military balance.

As a result of the deal recently concluded with the United States, India has gained access to nuclear technology in exchange for disentangling its civilian nuclear program from its weapons-building facilities. Pakistan, on the other hand, only received a verbal confirmation from Bush of its position as “a vital ally in the war on terrorism.” Bush, of course, made a hint about the necessity of conducting “transparent and democratic elections” next year.

Practically, and unlike India, Pakistan was ineligible for a nuclear cooperation with the United States for civil purposes. Bush, however, did not forget to urge Pakistan to replace “the ideology of hate” with an “ideology of hope.” Then he asked for “intelligence exchange” between the two countries, as the “best means to defeat al-Qaeda.”

This typical discourse used with Muslim countries is now used with Iran to stop its attempts at nuclear enrichment. John Bolton, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, said that the minute it acquires the scientific and technical ability for nuclear enrichment, even only in labs, Iran will be able to use this power in industrial activities. Therefore, Bolton emphasized that, as Americans, “we are very convinced that we should not allow any nuclear enrichment in Iran.” As for Scott McMillan, the White House’s spokesperson, he called on the “international community” to resume its efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons: “it’s a matter of trust, and the political system in Iran has showed, over almost two decades, that it cannot be trusted.”

Indeed, it is a matter of having trust, not only in Iran, but also in Pakistan and any other Muslim country. Obviously, “Muslims” cannot be trusted, nor dealt with on grounds equal to non-Muslim countries. This is the core issue that underlies the difference in American treatment to India and Pakistan. Was it not for the American war on terrorism and need for “intelligence,” Pakistan today would have faced the threat of sanctions that Iran is facing, to halt its nuclear program.

It has become quite evident that Muslims are not allowed to acquire advanced technology due to “a matter of trust.” The West does not “trust” Muslims, regardless of the varying justifications. Public polls in the United States show that almost half the American population believes that Islam feeds terrorism. One out of four Americans confessed to harboring racist sentiments against Muslims and Arabs.

It is high time that the more than fifty Muslim states around the globe stand for one another. Instead, however, the Organization of Muslim Conference is being used for trumpeting Western agendas. One can only wonder why there isn’t some Islamic unified authority that guarantees the dignity and rights of Muslim people around the world. Muslim leaders need to resolve “matters of trust” amongst themselves. Only then the “international community” would trust them, and respect their aspirations. Only then, the American administration would treat India and Pakistan on equal grounds.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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