Pentagon report justifies India's stand

A US Department of Defence (DoD) report drawing attention to Pakistan’s use of militants as proxies against India and Afghanistan is a vindication of India’s long-standing position that Islamabad is waging a proxy war using terrorists to further its strategic and other objectives in the region.

The report observes that “Afghan and India-focused militants” are operating from Pakistan “to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India's superior military.” It points to the shallowness of Pakistan's “public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation.”

For decades, Pakistan has been nurturing anti-India terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and other parts of India, even providing them with logistical support to carry out violent attacks here. It extended this strategy to Afghanistan as well. Popular support for India has grown in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, with India’s humanitarian and reconstruction work winning local and international applause.

Frustrated over its own waning influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has repeatedly directed its proxies to unleash violence against Indian and Afghan targets, perhaps hoping to weaken India’s resolve to remain involved in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The Pentagon report points to Pakistan’s hand in the bombing of the Indian consulate at Herat in May.

In terms of content, the Pentagon report says nothing new; it does not say anything that India has not said before.

What makes it noteworthy, however, is that it is affirming Pakistan’s proxy war in public – so far officials would admit this in private conversations – and in a document presented to the US Congress. That this document was put out by the Pentagon – of all the US government departments, it is the DoD that has been the most sympathetic to Pakistan on India-Pakistan issues, given the close co-operation between the two militaries dating back to the early 1950s – adds to its significance.

India has welcomed the Pentagon’s assessment of Pakistan’s role in destabilising the region. But will something more substantial come out of the report? Hitherto, the US government has waffled on the question of Pakistan’s support to terror groups.

It adopted a selective approach towards tackling terrorism, pushing Islamabad to act against only those outfits that threaten US interests rather than nudging it to crackdown on all terrorist groups, including those targeting India.  It has ignored India’s calls drawing attention to Pakistan’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism. India will be hoping that the Pentagon report will lead to a rethink in Washington and the framing of a new strategy to fight terrorism.

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