MUMBAI, Sept. 26: Suggesting that both India and the US conduct pre-emptive strikes inside Pakistan to destroy its nuclear sites (where weapons have either already been stored or are being made), former US Senator Larry Pressler told on Monday that Donald Trump may turn out to be the best American president yet for India as he had recently put Pakistan on notice for harbouring terrorists.
But for this to happen, Trump would have to get around the Pentagon, which always encouraged Pakistan, he said. Such encouragement emboldened Pakistan to attack India as "the mother of terrorism" and "predator" at the UN general assembly session on Sunday, he added. Trump's description of the Pentagon as "a swamp" was a good sign, he noted, hoping the US president would drain it soon (as he'd promised).
A three-term Senator and twice a member of the House of Representatives, Pressler (75) authored the famous Pressler Amendment which in 1990 blocked US military aid to Pakistan when the then US President George H W Bush could not certify Pakistan was not developing nukes.
As the delivery of close to 30 F-16 aircraft to Islamabad was barred, Pressler, then a Republican and head of the Senate's arms control subcommittee, became something of a hero in India and, in his own words, "a devil in Pakistan." His new book, Neighbours in Arms, engagingly tells the story of the amendment and of the US foreign policy that enabled Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons and casts a severe spotlight on the culture of lobbying in Washington and the grip of the military-industrial state ("the Octopus") inside the US.
Pressler has long distanced himself from the Republican Party — he contested Senate polls as an Independent in 2014 and backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential polls — but despite differences with Trump, he feels the president is not doing half as badly as US media suggests.
Trump's warning to Pakistan on its sheltering and export of terror, linking of US aid to "action on terror" and his request to India to "help us more with Afghanistan" signalled a recasting of relations.
The ex-Senator hopes Trump will act on the notice.
"US must declare Pakistan a terrorist state, cut off all aid and must not treat India and Pakistan as equals. India is a democracy, Pakistan isn't. And Pakistan and especially the ISI have lied to us for decades," he said.
All praise for PM Modi, the Vietnam veteran said it was good the Modi government was tough with Pakistan.
He called the denial of a US visa to Modi when the latter was Gujarat CM "a stain" on the US. He was critical of India, however, for allegedly handing out millions to lobbyists in Washington. "Pakistan started this lobbying. India doesn't need to do it," he said. He said Pakistan couldn't have developed nuclear weapons if US had stopped aid.
Having worked closely with many US presidents, he felt Ronald Reagan had been very receptive to his ideas on nuclear non-proliferation and his views on Pakistan's duplicity but had been hemmed in by "Octopus" mandarins. And Bill Clinton had, on his 2001 trip to India (Pressler was part of that delegation), given the impression that he loved the country and its people but had, in reality, repealed the Pressler Amendment and encouraged military supplies to India's hostile neighbour.
Pressler was criticised when, in the 1990s, he had expressed concerns about an "Islamic bomb." He said he stood vindicated today and that the growth of ISIS and similar groups led him to fear that fundamentalist organisations - and not individual states - may create a "Caliphate." TOI
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