‘Very difficult to change Pakistan’s attention from India to Taliban’

April 16th, 2009 - 10:03 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 16 (IANS) With Pakistan army focused heavily on its perceived threats from India, a former US official says it would be very difficult to change its orientation to fight Taliban extremists on its border with Afghanistan.

“Both Indians and Americans, and Pakistanis for that matter, view the current challenge germinating from the frontiers with Afghanistan,” says Evan A. Feigenbaum, former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia.

But “The Pakistan army has trained for fifty years to fight India in the plains of the Punjab,” he says.”So that really requires a change in orientation by the Pakistan army, which is very difficult for them because it’s so different from what they’ve trained and prepared for the past fifty to sixty years.”

The United States and India obviously share a lot of interests in South Asia, Feigenbaum, now Senior Fellow for East, Central, and South Asia at Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview with the Washington think tank’s website, CFR.org

But “what’s been interesting and important about the US-India relationship over the last decade is that it has really exploded the boundaries of South Asia in a lot of ways,” he said when asked about India’s opposition to being included in US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke’s portfolio.

Sceptical voices were raised in India about Holbrooke’s mandate, “because many Indians, like many Americans, view the great achievement of the last decade as moving the US-India relationship beyond South Asian issues and beyond Indo-Pak this, and Indo-Pak that,” he said.

“From an Indian perspective, linking India and the Kashmir issue into the issues that Ambassador Holbrooke is looking at in Afghanistan, is something that Indians really oppose,” he said.

In the US too, he said there’s a broad recognition in both Democratic and Republican parties “that India is a country that has capacity to work with us on a whole array of global challenges, not just issues within the region.”

“Thus the focus has really been on building a US-India relationship with a more global orientation,” Feigenbaum said.

“When you go down the list of challenges facing the United States, whether it’s forging a deal on climate change or ensuring a successful Doha round or the international trade regime, the United States needs to find a way to work with India.”

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