Pakistan uses militant groups as foreign policy instrument: Asia Society

April 3rd, 2009 - 10:02 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 3 (IANS) Unless the Pakistan military comes to see its domestic insurgents as a greater threat than India, it is unlikely to close militant bases and develop counterinsurgency capacity, a new report by Asia Society says.

Suggesting that Pakistan must be central to US policy on Afghanistan, the Asia Society, a think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, said Washington must act to persuade Islamabad to stop using militant groups as an instrument of foreign policy.

The Asia Society, which was headed Richard Holbrooke until he was appointed US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan in January, convened a task force to compile the report: “Back from the Brink? A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan.”

In neither country is a political settlement with insurgents a quick-fix substitute for other policies, says the report noting, “Pakistani militants protect Al Qaeda’s leadership, as well as training and logistical facilities for even the most extreme elements of the Afghan insurgency.”

“Furthermore, the security establishment in Pakistan has an ambiguous attitude: It has always considered both the Afghan Taliban and militant groups fighting in Kashmir to be strategic assets,” it said.

Transfixed by what it views as a far greater Indian threat, it has been reluctant to recognize that the support structures and networks for these groups have also provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda and groups fighting the Pakistani state under the banner of the Pakistan Taliban Movement (Tehrik-i Taliban-i Pakistan), led by Baitullah Mehsud, the report said.

It is also important to work with the Pakistan military and police to train and equip forces for counterinsurgency operations, the report says as “the perception that India poses a greater threat than armed extremists, and the continued use of armed extremists as assets against India and Afghanistan, have made the Pakistan military unwilling to integrate counterinsurgency tactics into its doctrine.”

“Pakistan’s defence establishment is trained, equipped, and deployed almost exclusively for a potential conflict with India,” the report said noting, “Pakistan security establishment has resisted diverting resources from its primary anti-Indian mission.”

Asking the US to actively engage with China and Saudi Arabia, the report noted that while both have been close and consistent allies of Pakistan, especially the military, both have recently developed serious concerns about the inroads made by Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan.

They are also concerned about “the danger of further deterioration of security or economic collapse, and the threat of war with India provoked by terrorist attacks such as the one in Mumbai.”

The US should continue to encourage Pakistan and India to build on their existing composite dialogue to normalise their relations, including their behind-the-scenes efforts to deescalate tensions over Kashmir and find a lasting settlement to this dispute, the report suggested.

The United States should also seek out ways to incorporate Pakistan into the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Noting that “India is an indispensable regional actor,” the report said, the US should also undertake to relieve Pakistan’s anxiety about the Indian consulates in Afghanistan by encouraging transparency and dialogue between the two countries in Afghanistan.

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