‘US would love to see India, Pakistan talk about Kashmir’

May 21st, 2009 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 21 (IANS) The Barack Obama administration would love to see India and Pakistan re-engage in confidence-building measures and talk about Kashmir and other areas of difference, according to a top defence department official.

“There is a lot they can do to lower tensions, and they had done a lot before the Mumbai attacks,” Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defence for policy said in an interview with the Defence Writers’ Group posted on the department website.

“We would like to see that process restarted. That could go a long way to allowing the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government to focus on the most urgent existential threat they face, and that’s from within,” she said.

Part of the problem in Pakistan, Flournoy said, is that the country still is too focused on a perceived threat from India.

The Pakistani military is a conventional force trained for conventional warfare. “It’s now being used to conduct counterinsurgency operations,” Flournoy said. “To their credit, they have asked for help.”

The Pakistani military has asked for help in counterinsurgency training and different equipment, but it is going to take time to reorient the military, she said.

The Pakistanis also realise the fight they are in against the Taliban in the northwestern provinces and the federally administered tribal areas doesn’t have a “military only” solution.

“The real issue is allowing the Pakistani government to be able to provide for the needs of the population in this area,” the official said.

The people too understand the threat. The attacks against cricketers and others in Lahore “brought home the danger to the Pakistani people and Pakistani government like nothing before,” she said. “There is greater willingness to deal with this than ever before.”

The biggest growth in American assistance in Pakistan is on the non-military side. “What we’re trying to do is assist them where we are able to because the stakes are so great for us,” Flournoy said.

The new US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan treats the area as an integrated theatre of operations, Flournoy said. “We have to regard Pakistan and Afghanistan together, because each affects the other so profoundly.”

“When I say an integrated strategy, I mean the enemy doesn’t respect the border between the two nations,” she said. The Taliban and their allies travel back and forth across the border constantly, she noted, and problems on one side of the border affect the other side.

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