US policy: Run with India; hunt with Pak

IN PERSPECTIVE


While disagreements persist between Washington and Islamabad over the conduct of the war against the Taliban presence in Pakistan, the US seems to be convinced that the Pakistani army’s campaign in Swat has been effective.

The outflow of some 2-3 million refugees during this offensive showed that the Pakistani authorities’ action could be compared to ‘occupation’ of foreign rather than national territory, a diplomatic source in Washington told Deccan Herald on condition of anonymity. “For the time being, the Taliban has been pushed back,” but there are areas other than Swat where the Taliban is strong. South Waziristan was supposed to be next on the agenda once Swat had been recovered but the campaign has yet to start there in earnest.

The US military command would also like to see Pakistan take action against the ‘Quetta shura,’ or council, formed by the Afghan Taliban leadership, including Afghanistan’s former ruler Mullah Muhammad Omar who is reported to be hiding in Baluchistan. Pakistan denies such reports and argues he is in Afghanistan.

Despite US pressure to take action in these regions, Pakistan has put wider action against the Taliban on hold. By limiting its targets, Islamabad is seeking to maintain its assets in Taliban factions and other Muslim fundamentalist movements such as Laskhar-e-Taiba. Last week The New York Times reported that Islamabad is also resisting demands by the US to expand the front against the Taliban because this would mean drawing down forces from the border with India, regarded by Islamabad as a greater danger to Pakistan than Muslim insurgents.

Although Pakistan remains under pressure to act against all fundamentalist groups from the US military, the source said the Obama administration has somewhat relaxed diplomatic pressure. Comments by US envoy Richard Holbrooke confirm this information.
The source said that in the ‘immediate aftermath’ of the attacks on Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008, which killed 166 and wounded 300, the US exerted strong pressure on Pakistan to take action against the suspects involved in this operation for which Laskhar-e-Taiba is blamed. US and Indian intelligence cooperation was close. The US Central Intelligency Agency was operating “on the ground from day one,” asserted the source. The US saw that association with the effort to identify and catch the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks was ‘in its own interest,’ particularly because Laskhar-e-Taiba is ‘linked to al-Qa’ida,’ the group which carried out the civilian aircraft hijackings and strikes on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington in September 2001. Furthermore, Laskhar is supplying the Afghan Taliban, now fighting the US, with weapons and suicide bombers.  The informant pointed out that 10,000 Pakistani Taliban foot soldiers went to Afghanistan to fight US and Western forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

Tetchy and problematic relations between the US and Pakistan, Washington's traditional ally in the region, can be compared with the gradual rapprochement between the US and India, a former critic of US policy. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit last week cemented the two country's ‘strong bilateral relations,’ the informant stated. “Trade stands at $2.75 billion. There are 100,000 Indians studying in the US, and Washington views India as a global power.”

Nuclear technology

During Clinton’s visit there were discussions on arrangements for reprocessing nuclear material. India is now reviewing its own regulations, particularly in relation to liability in case of accidents, to bring them into line with international norms. India will make its decisions on the basis of ‘cost effectiveness.’

Delhi is currently considering the construction of two nuclear reactors in addition to two completed Russian reactors which are not yet operational. Kazakistan delivered supplies of uranium to the reactors on July 22. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will carry out inspections of ‘sites India decides to make available,’ the source stated.

India is also concluding deals with the US and other countries for military equipment and weapons. Such arrangements are not connected with the provision of nuclear technology, material and plant. Currently India is in the process of upgrading reconnaissance aircraft with US parts and equipment. India has also made military purchases from Israel to the value of $5 billion over five years.

The US is no longer the global hyperpower it was in 1990 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. China and Russia are taking their places as major players. India is determined to cultivate good relations with all powers as a multi-power world emerges.

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