ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — President Bush rewarded this anti-terror ally Friday, minimizing U.S. concerns about democracy’s pace and anti-American sentiment in favor of a high-profile visit to boost Pakistan’s global standing.Bush arrived amid extraordinary security for an overnight stay, following an unannounced visit to Afghanistan and three days in India, Pakistan’s neighbor and rival. Air Force One landed after dark, its lights off and window shades drawn to conceal the distinctive aircraft.
A banner strung across an airport building welcomed “President George W. Bush, a friend of Pakistan,” and above it were pictures of Bush, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the prime minister. A motorcade assembled to bring Bush into town included helicopters, but it was not immediately clear which method of transportation he took to the U.S. Embassy. Highways were cleared of all traffic, and military forces stood guard along the route.
The security precautions underscored the continuing terrorist threat in this poor, conservative Muslim country where a U.S. diplomat was killed a day earlier in a bomb attack.
“I will meet with President Musharraf to discuss Pakistan’s vital cooperation in the war on terror and our efforts to foster economic and political development so that we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam,” Bush said shortly before arriving in Pakistan. “I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world.”
Later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that Bush meant to say Pakistan would be a force in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.
Though Pakistan is a key U.S. partner in rooting out terrorists, Osama bin Laden is believed to still be hiding along its porous, mountainous border with Afghanistan. On Thursday, a suicide car bomber killed the U.S. diplomat and three others in a strike near the U.S. consulate in the southern port city of Karachi, a hotbed of Islamic militancy.
Bush has promised to raise with Musharraf the need to do more to hunt down al-Qaida members. He also was to talk about the need for additional democratic reforms. Musharraf seized power seven years ago in a bloodless coup and has reneged on a promise to relinquish his military post.
But a public show of solidarity for the Pakistani leader, a target of repeated assassination attempts in part because of his support for the U.S. war on terror, was likely to take center stage in meetings with Bush.
Another key goal of the Pakistan stop is to boost the U.S. image among Muslims by showcasing American contributions after a devastating earthquake in October.
In Rawalpindi, near where Bush landed Friday night, about 1,000 demonstrators earlier had trampled the American flag and chanted “killer go back” and “death to America.” Police dispersed them with swinging batons.
Demonstrators also were prevalent in India, where Bush inked a landmark nuclear deal that is the centerpiece of America’s new romance with this 1 billion-strong democracy, the world’s largest.
In a speech Friday in the Indian capital of New Delhi that was billed as the centerpiece of his trip, Bush said Americans should not respond to this nation’s exploding economy by closing itself off to global trade.
“The United States will not give into the protectionists and lose these opportunities,” Bush said at Purana Qila, a historic fort. “For the sake of workers in both our countries, America will trade with confidence.”
An estimated 40 percent of Indians live on less than $1 a day. Yet the middle class has swelled to more than 300 million – larger than the entire U.S. population – and India’s exploding economy has created millions of jobs.
The outsourcing industry – in which Indian firms handle everything from software engineering to customer service call centers for U.S. and other foreign companies – is expected to bring in $22 billion in revenue alone this fiscal year. Much of that outsourcing business is generated by U.S. companies. Many have eliminated domestic jobs for cheaper Indian labor.
Bush said the United States should see this rapidly growing nation as a land of opportunity instead of a threat. America’s best response to globalization is not to build economic barriers to protect workers, but to educate them to make sure they can compete on any stage, he said.
“In my country, some focus only on one aspect of our trade relations with India – outsourcing,” he said.
But Bush also urged India to lift caps on foreign investment, lower tariffs that penalize American agricultural markets and protect its workers and children from abuse.
“India has responsibilities too,” he said.
Bush spent much of Friday in Hyderabad, one of India’s high-tech hubs that’s driving economic expansion.
He met with young entrepreneurs at a business school, and visited an agricultural college that is researching biotechnology and ways to increase yields and output. Roughly 65 percent of India’s population makes its living off agriculture, but the nation’s farm sector lags.
After Bush returns to Washington on Sunday, he must sell skeptics in Congress on the deal reached with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the United States to provide nuclear fuel, reactors and know-how to help India meet its growing demand for power.
© 2006 The Associated Press.