WASHINGTON — Historic realignments are best perceived in retrospect, but it may be that we are witnessing a historic change in attitudes toward India and Pakistan.
It struck me that something was very different when the visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached an agreement with President Bush that would permit India to get international help with its peaceful nuclear program while retaining its nuclear arms program.
"Because of our shared values, the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger," the president said.
That reflected, in the first place, concern about the activities of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who has been helping the nuclear programs of North Korea and other countries. President Pervez Musharraf has done nothing to severely punish him, although Khan is reported to be under house arrest.
But the change in attitude also reflects the end of the cold war and the new requirements of a war against terrorism. A half-century ago Secretary of State John Foster Dulles condemned India as "immoral" because of its policy of nonalignment in the confrontation of the superpowers. And when India went to war against Pakistan, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said, in a secret memo, that the Nixon administration was "tilting towards Pakistan." More recently, Pakistan has been valued by the US as a staging area for the war in Afghanistan.
But in the age of terror the situation is different. The American - and British - view of Pakistan is conditioned by Musharraf's inability, despite lavish aid, to crack down on the terrorist training centers and the Taliban operating from just across the Afghan border.
It is symbolic that, whereas most of the 9/11 hijackers originated in Saudi Arabia, three of the four suicide bombers in London on July 7 had been in Pakistan. And while Egyptian authorities say five Pakistanis initially sought in connection with the bombing at Sharm el-Sheikh last week are no longer being linked to that incident, the government was continuing to hunt them for questioning.
The Bush administration has turned down an Indian request to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state under the nonproliferation treaty.
But other than that, the administration seems ready to show the kind of favoritism to India that it once showed to Pakistan.
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.