ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- President Bush left New Delhi yesterday, declaring that the United States and India had "put the Cold War behind us." He then flew to neighboring Pakistan, landing with Air Force One's running lights darkened in a clear sign that the war on terrorism was in full swing.
After celebrating newly forged ties between democratic India and the United States, Bush traveled to the military dictatorship of Pakistan -- whose rugged northwest is said to harbor the leaders of al-Qaida and the Taliban -- intent on demanding a stepped-up hunt for the "evildoers" who have threatened the security of all three nations.
With the White House conceding that Bush's visit to Pakistan is "not a risk-free undertaking," the president arrived in the capital, Islamabad, soon after a bombing outside the American Consulate in Karachi that claimed the life of a U.S. Foreign Service officer. And protesters of Pakistan's alliance with the United States were amassing in cities across the country.
The White House made it clear long ago that it has no intention of offering Pakistan what it had just brokered with India: a cooperative sharing of nuclear technology for the expansion of civilian nuclear power. India has a history of averting the proliferation of nuclear weapons while Pakistan has a record of spreading nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and other "rogue" states, the administration has said.
The nuclear power agreement with India, which faces an uncertain fate in the U.S. Congress, marks a sharp turning point in the relations of two nations long divided during the Cold War.
"[The agreement] was a way to put the Cold War behind us," Bush said yesterday. In the high-tech capital of India, Hyderabad, Bush credited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "for working with me and our government to show the world what's possible when people can come together and think strategically."
In contrast, Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's main focus is their common enemy: Islamic militants, who have attacked the United States and have twice attempted to assassinate Musharraf. En route to Pakistan this week, Bush said he was counting on Musharraf to help track down al-Qaida operatives, including Osama bin Laden.
The after-dark landing of Air Force One in Islamabad demonstrated the security risks in Pakistan: Passengers were asked to draw the shades over their windows, and the aircraft's running lights were darkened. At landing, a motorcade awaited and sped away in one direction as two Black Hawk helicopters took off on an opposite course.
"This is not a risk-free undertaking," Steve Hadley, the president's national security adviser, said of the trip. The consulate attack is "a reminder that we're at war and that Pakistan is both an ally in the war on terror and in some sense a battleground in the war on terror ... a site where the war is being carried out."
Bush concluded his two-day tour of India with a televised evening address in a striking outdoor setting. Bush stood before several hundred invited guests with the southern gate of Purana Qila, the "old fort" erected in 1545 by an Afghan conqueror, as a backdrop. "When Martin Luther King arrived in Delhi in 1959, he said to other countries, 'I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim,'" said Bush, attempting to highlight all that India and the U.S. share in common. "I come to India as a friend."
Yet, while celebrating the "shared values" of India and the United States, the risk of the president's first visit to Pakistan could be measured in the protests of opponents awaiting him.
"I feel regret and sorrow," Maulana Abdul Aziz said in a sermon delivered to 2,000 people in the Red Mosque, one of Islamabad's most radical mosques. "Our rulers, particularly Musharraf, have surrendered everything before the United States. Bush is coming to Pakistan as he's the real ruler of Pakistan. The government has made Islamabad a police state. They are not allowing anyone to speak out in Islamabad."
About 6,000 police were patrolling Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi ahead of Bush's arrival and before appearances today that include a meeting and news conference with Musharraf and a cricket match.
The streets of Islamabad were largely quiet yesterday afternoon. Many businesses had closed as part of a national protest against cartoons mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad that were published in Europe. Bus stations were closed, even public bathrooms locked. Police stopped sporadic rallies.
Mark Silva and Kim Barker write for the Chicago Tribune.