Obama asked to adopt ‘carrot and stick’ policy for Pakistan

December 17th, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Dec 17 (IANS) Two leading South Asia experts in the US have asked president-elect Barack Obama to adopt a “calibrated carrot and stick policy” to stop Pakistani military leadership from supporting extremists operating in Afghanistan or India.”Developing an effective policy toward Pakistan will be one of the most immediate challenges facing your administration,” wrote Lisa Curtis and Walter Lohman in a memo to Obama.

Curtis is senior research fellow for South Asia and Lohman is director of the Asian Studies Centre at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

“Your administration must convince the Pakistani military leadership that Pakistan’s national security interests are no longer served by supporting extremists, whether they operate in Afghanistan or in India,” the two experts wrote.

“This should be done through a calibrated carrot and stick policy that targets the military’s interests and through stepped up regional diplomacy that increases Pakistan’s confidence in its regional security position,” they added.

Curtis and Lohman said that during his campaign, Obama “rightly pledged to support Pakistan’s nascent democratic government and to convince the military establishment to shift its focus away from India and toward militants within Pakistan’s own borders that threaten to destabilise the country”.

“However, your recent assertion that the US should try to help resolve the Kashmir dispute so that Pakistan can focus on reining in militancy on its Afghan border is misguided,” they wrote.

“Promoting the idea of direct US mediation of the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir could backfire by raising unrealistic expectations for a favourable settlement among Pakistanis, thereby fuelling Islamabad’s support for Kashmiri militants in hopes of pushing a hard-line agenda that it now believed was within reach,” the experts warned.

The US cannot afford to see Pakistan fail, nor can it ignore the extremists operating in Pakistan’s tribal border areas, Curtis and Lohman said, noting: “Afghanistan cannot succeed without success in Pakistan, and vice versa, but turning the tide in Pakistan will not be easy.”

The incoming Obama Administration will have to convince sceptical Pakistanis that fighting terrorism is in their own country’s national security interest, they said.

The US was shortsighted in not convincing Pakistan to break all ties to the Taliban and other Kashmir-focused terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), responsible for the Nov 26 multiple terrorist attacks in Mumbai, immediately following 9/11, the two experts said.

“The lack of a consistent and systematic Pakistani policy to rein in extremists has contributed to the development of the dangerous terrorist safe haven in the tribal areas as well as the current India-Pakistan crisis that has brought two nuclear-armed nations to the brink of conflict,” they said.

Pakistan’s failure to sever all of its links to deadly terrorist networks in the region was also highlighted this summer when well-sourced media reports revealed Pakistani intelligence links to the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

“Moving the US-Pakistan relationship away from its current turbulent track and setting it on a more even keel will be a tremendous challenge,” Curtis and Lohman said, noting: “Convincing Pakistan to make fundamental shifts in its security perceptions of the region will be difficult.”

“But over the long run, the US will be more successful in defeating the international terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan if it works in cooperation with the Pakistani leadership and engages in respectful dialogue that acknowledges Pakistan’s regional security concerns,” the two experts said.

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