Worried stiff about Pakistan, US seeks to advance ties with India (Lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 23 (IANS) The situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan tops the reasons the US is “advancing its relationship with India”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, while accusing the Pakistani government of “abdicating to the Taliban” and warning that the deterioration of security in Pakistan poses a “mortal threat” to the US and the world.

“The US is advancing its relationship with India as part of a wide-ranging diplomatic agenda to meet today’s daunting challenges topped by the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Clinton said in an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, her first since being confirmed.

“I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists,” she said, calling disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan “probably the world’s greatest proliferator”, though she appeared reluctant to link aid to Islamabad with getting information from him about his activities.

Elsewhere, General David Petraeus, architect of the US military surge credited with dramatically reducing violence in Iraq, said that Pakistan’s leaders need to realise that their biggest threat comes from internal extremists, not from India.

Warning that Pakistan is in danger of falling into terrorist hands because of failed government policies, Clinton said in her deposition before the House committee that the deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world”.

“I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state,” she said.

Several members of Congress voiced concern about Islamic extremists gaining ground in Pakistan, including the Committee’s Democratic Chairman Howard Berman, who warned the United States cannot allow extremists to control Pakistan or operate with impunity along the border with Afghanistan.

Clinton said the US relationship with New Delhi is “essential” as it builds constructive ties with India, China and Russia, major nations that would have a lot to say in an emerging world.

Talking about the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, she said: “As daunting as these challenges are, they also offer us new arenas for global cooperation, and we’re taking steps to seize these opportunities.”

Noting that the Democratic chairman of the panel, Howard Berman, its top Republican member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others had mentioned that “advancing our relationship with India …is essential, she said: “It’s the world’s largest democracy; it’s an important ally in so many efforts.”

Earlier in his opening statement, Berman said that he and several other Congressional colleagues who had just returned from a trip to India and Pakistan were happy at the dramatically improved ties with India, but deeply concerned about the security situation in Pakistan.

“I think I can speak for all of them in saying that we were encouraged by the dramatically improved US ties with India, but deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Pakistan.”

Clinton was asked about A.Q. Khan by Republican Michael McCaul. She replied that there was no doubt that Khan “is probably the world’s greatest proliferator, and the damage that he’s done around the world has been incalculable. We have made it very clear that the network had to be dismantled, and it was.”

But seeming reluctant to connect this to cooperation with Pakistan, the Secretary of State said: “We have to just be careful that what we put into legislation doesn’t stop cooperation.”

Speaking to a forum at Harvard University Tuesday, David Petraeus said Pakistan’s leaders need to realise that their biggest threat comes from internal extremists, not from India, but “it’s an intellectually dislocating idea for the institutions of Pakistan”.

Petraeus, the leader of US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the goal in working with Pakistan, whose Afghanistan border has become a haven for insurgents, is to help its officials understand that “the existential threat” facing Pakistan “is internal extremists and not India”.

The terrorist attacks on Mumbai last November by Pakistan-based extremist group Laskar-e-Taiba “was a big setback”, he said. The Mumbai attack “was a true 9/11 moment” for India, Petraeus said, adding the government in New Delhi “displayed considerable restraint”.

Calling on Islamabad to change its mindset toward India, Petraeus said the shift in thinking that should take place in Pakistan is similar to what happened in the US after the Cold War. America had grown “comfortable” facing off against the Soviet Union, he added.

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