India remains priority No.1 for Pak military, politicians

April 6th, 2009 - 2:43 pm ICT by ANI  

Taliban Islamabad, Apr.6 (ANI): India remains priority number one for the military brass in Pakistan, as it has been for the past 61 years.

Therefore, the Obama administration has a huge challenge confronting it, and that is to convince Islamabad to shift its obsessive focus from India to defeating a fast-expanding Islamic insurgency that threatens to devour the country.

India’s growing presence in Afghanistan - the building of roads; the opening since 2001 of two consulates in two cities close to Pakistan - makes Pakistan believe it is being encircled, said Ishaq Khan Khakwani, a former senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q party.

Pakistanis complain that even though Obama, during his European trip, called for dialogue between India and Pakistan, his plans fail to address this major strategic concern.

“The United States has to get India to back off in Afghanistan,” said Khakwani, who is sympathetic to the American position.

“Then Pakistan will see Indian interference is diminished and that will give confidence to Pakistan,” he said.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will have to wrestle with this challenge when they arrive in Pakistan for talks early this week, the New York Post reports.

President Obama’s strategy of offering Pakistan a partnership to defeat the insurgency has officially been welcomed by the Pakistan Government, but large parts of the public, the political class and the military have brushed off the plan, rebuffing the idea that the threat from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which Washington calls a common enemy, is so urgent.

Strengthening Pakistan’s weak civilian institutions, updating political parties rooted in feudal loyalties and recasting a military fixated on yesterday’s enemy, and stuck in the traditions of conventional warfare are generational challenges, claims the NYT.

“We are running out of time to help Pakistan change its present course toward increasing economic and political instability, and even ultimate failure,” said a recent report by a task force of the Atlantic Council that was led by former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The report, released in February, gave the Pakistani government 6 to 12 months before things went from bad to dangerous.

A specialist in guerrilla warfare, David Kilcullen, who advised Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was the American commander in Iraq, offered a more dire assessment.

Pakistan could be facing internal collapse within six months, he said.

General Petraeus, in Congressional testimony last week, called the insurgency one that could “take down” the country, which is home to Qaeda militants and has nuclear arms.

Even before the insurgency has been fully engaged, however, many Pakistanis have concluded that reaching an accommodation with the militants is preferable to fighting them. Fighting the insurgency is commonly seen in Pakistan as an American cause, not a Pakistani one. There are questions, too, of whether the Obama offer of nearly three billion dollars in counterinsurgency aid can quickly convert the Pakistani military from a force trained to fight India on the plains of Punjab into an outfit that can conquer the mountains of the tribal areas, where the militants operate.

Lt. Gen. Javed Ashraf, said the American opinions - long held but now publicly stated - did not augur well. A spokesman for the Pakistani military called them “baseless” and part of a “malicious campaign.”

“You can’t start a successful operation with a trust deficit,” General Ashraf said.

“Pakistan is an ally. But then you say we are linked with the Taliban. The serving army people will say, ‘To hell with them if this is what we are going to get after laying down more than 1,500 lives.’ ” That is the number of soldiers the Pakistani Army says have been killed fighting the militants in the tribal areas. (ANI)

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