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'India can do more for Pak than anyone else'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | December 04, 2008 15:03 IST

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Noted South Asia expert Stephen P Cohen has asserted that India can do more to rescue Pakistan than any other country even as tensions mount over the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Indian anger toward Pakistan is palpable as credible intelligence points to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba as the perpetrators of this carnage being called the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.

"India can do more for Pakistan than any other country," Cohen, who was among the panelists at a discussion on the 'Mumbai Terrorist Attacks: A Challenge for India and the World," was convened by the Brookings Institution -- the first by a US think tank in the wake of the tragedy, said. "But I think America should be looking for coalitions, not only with India, but also with the Chinese, the Saudis, and the Europeans, in a sense to rescue Pakistan."

Cohen, a senior fellow at Brookings, who's written several books on India and Pakistan, warned, "The future, if we don't, is very grim. Until now, we've been concerned about Pakistan largely because of its support for terrorism -- implicit contacts with terrorists --and that's a serious issue, especially in Afghanistan, now in India."

But, he predicted, "Five, six years from now, if Pakistan continues to unravel, another issue will displace that and that is the Pakistani nuclear weapons program. They have between 80-100 nuclear weapons, and by then if should be up to 150."

Cohen said, 'If a crumbling Pakistan decides to go out of business in style, they might not take the Soviet route. They might do it with a big bang -- figuratively and literally. So, in a sense, we cannot afford not to deal with Pakistan, and of course, the country that's most affected by the future of Pakistan is India, after Afghanistan."

"The Pakistan army [Images] can't govern Pakistan, we know," he said. "Time and time again, it's tried and could not. But, it won't let anybody else govern it either. So, in a sense, that's Pakistan's dilemma -- and it's always been Pakistan's dilemma since the 1950s."

Cohen said, Pakistan President Asif Zardari is "in a very fragile position. Ironically, he won the second free election Pakistan ever had. But, he doesn't have much legitimacy in Pakistan, and the military would brush him aside if he's seen to be overstepping his boundaries."

"On the other hand," he said for the US, it had no Plan C, from the time it first outsourced Pakistan policy to former President General Pervez Musharraf [Images], then anointed erstwhile prime minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] as the catalyst of Pakistan's return to democracy thus resulting in "her death warrant."

Cohen said, Washington's Plan C is to continue with the status quo as it remains now which everyone acknowledges is "at a dead-end and which would eventually combust or break-up and something awful will happen."

"But we should work with Zardari and we should encourage the Indians to work with Zardari, because another military crisis would not do anybody any good."

However, Cohen said, "We should be prepared that if Zardari can't make it, he will be pushed out and you've then got another general in power and even something worse -- the military and then we've got to deal with that kind of Pakistan."

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