Originally Published 2003-07-24 11:08:33 Published on Jul 24, 2003
President Pervez Musharraf¿s recent trans-national tour¿four western nations and three African nations¿has significant implications for him, and Pakistan.
Musharraf seeks out Ummah
President Pervez Musharraf's recent trans-national tour-four western nations and three African nations-has significant implications for him, and Pakistan.

Over the years, Pakistan's own interest has always been a casualty to the US national and strategic interests. Quite often, Pakistan was forced to take decisions in line with the interest of the United States sacrificing its own interest in the process. The other fact that has emerged after the 9/11 attacks is that Islam as a religion has come to be equated with terrorism and violence.

Viewed against this backdrop, Musharraf's visit assumes significance not only for Pakistan but for the Islamic world. His first visit was to Germany where he discussed revival of co-operation in economic and commercial sectors. Germany had suspended all such assistance after Pakistan had carried out a series of nuclear tests in the summer of 1998. Germany has already lifted ban on sale of military hardware to Pakistan. This is a clear sign of European countries willing to take decisions independent of the US interests and pressures.

France visit too had its share of benefits to Pakistan in trade and investment besides defence. Musharraf expressed an interest in buying Euro fighter aircraft after the US turned out his request, last month, to buy F-16s. Emphasising the need for denuclearisation of south Asia, Musharraf said it could only be done if there was parity in conventional weapons between India and Pakistan.

Immediately on his return from the four-nation tour, President Musharraf flew to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. These nations are nowhere near the US in terms of military or strategic power but being Islamic States and members of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference), they exert considerable influence in the Islamic world. The 10th OIC conference is going to be held in Malaysia in October, and Pakistan expects to play an important role. Pakistan has been in search of a more influential role for itself in the OIC.

Musharraf on his trip to the three African nations presented an investor friendly image of Pakistan. He invited the Muslim countries to invest in Pakistan and mentioned the low level of trade within the Ummah. Morocco is strategically placed. It can be the focal point for any trade with the European nations. Good ties with Morocco will boost Pakistan's trade with other European nations. He called for increasing co-operation between the Ummah to reduce poverty, make progress in the field of science and technology.

By visiting the three Muslim nations, Musharraf has made it clear that though he has been supportive of the US led 'war against terrorism' (which is seen as anti-Islam) he does believe in Muslim brotherhood and the larger Ummah. He called the conflict n Kashmir a 'freedom struggle', not to be equated with terrorism. By saying this he wanted to send a message back home that he has not given up the Kashmir cause. Musharraf urged the international community to intensify efforts to force Israel to withdraw from Arab territories, expressing, in the process, his concern for the Arab world.

Musharraf's visit to these nations could be seen as an attempt by the Pakistan President to unite Ummah. There were some pointers to his success. Algeria hailed him as a leader of peace and appreciated his consistent endeavours to forge unity in the Ummah and foster justice and peace.

The visit has domestic implications for Musharraf. He would be seen as a leader of the Muslim brotherhood. With popular support to religious parties growing in Pakistan; Musharraf could gain from his new found love for the Ummah.
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