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Bush skirts around issue of sovereignty

Published Sep 24, 2008 12:00am

NEW YORK, Sept 23: Presidents George W. Bush and Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday showed a keen awareness of the sensitivities of the Pakistani people and avoided using words and terms that could have had a negative impact on the people.

The US president while talking about the issue of militancy avoided using the terms “war on terror” although his meeting with Mr Zardari focussed on joint efforts to fight insurgency in Fata.

Mr Bush also noted Mr Zardari’s concerns at the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by US forces but made no commitment.

“Your words have been very strong about Pakistan’s sovereign right and sovereign duty to protect your country, and the United States wants to help,” said Mr Bush while addressing the Pakistani president sitting next to him.

Instead of the war on terror, Mr Bush chose to stress US economic assistance to Pakistan, offering to “help spread prosperity” in that country.

“We want our friends around the world to be making a good living. We want there to be economic prosperity and we can work together,” he said. And then he quietly reminded the media that Mr Zardari and he would also be talking about “security” issues.

Both leaders appeared comfortable in each other’s presence. Mr Bush smiled broadly as he spoke about his country’s relations with Pakistan.

“After all, Pakistan is a close and important friend,” said the US leader while expressing his “deepest condolences” for the victims of Saturday’s deadly blast in Islamabad.

“I know that your heart went out to the families of those who suffer and so does the collective heart of the American people,” said Mr Bush while turning towards Mr Zardari. “We stand with you.”

He then spoke of his meeting with Mr Zardari’s children at the Beijing Olympics, saying: “I got to know you a little bit in an interesting way when I met your children at the Olympics.”

The meeting with the children, he said, reminded him of the great suffering that the Pakistani president had been through with the loss of his wife.

“And I thank you very much for staying involved in public service to honour her legacy,” said Mr Bush. “Pakistan is an ally, and I look forward to deepening our relationship.”

The US president then turned to a subject not directly related to Pakistan but is a major issue in the US: a package to deal with the current economic crisis.

President Zardari’s response to Mr Bush’s remarks was brief and formal but he was generous in praising the US leader’s continued support for Pakistan.

“As always, you prove to the world that your heart is in there for us Pakistanis,” he said. “We respect your feelings, we respect the American ideals. And we bring to this the whole concept of your promise to the world of bringing democracy to Pakistan.”

Democracy, he said, had “come full circle” in Pakistan with the help of all the friends around the world and the Pakistani nation was thankful to the world for this help.

“Democracy is the answer. We will solve all the problems. We have a situation. We have issues. We’ve got problems. But we will solve them and we will rise to the occasion,” said President Zardari.

“That’s what my wife’s legacy is all about. That’s what democracy is all about.”

Democracy, he said, was about taking difficult decisions and doing the right thing for the people of Pakistan and to ‘our two great nations’.

“We should come together in this hard time and we will share the burden and the responsibility with the world.”