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No sign of shift in Pak strategic policies: US scholar

January 31, 2013 09:15 IST

There is no indication of any fundamental shift in strategic policies of Pakistan, a noted US scholar has said, noting that Islamabad's recent effort to improve ties with India appears to be driven by short term goals.

"Change in Pakistan's relations with India and Afghanistan and in its sponsorship of terrorism for political purposes is real but does not yet indicate a fundamental shift in strategic thinking," Frederic Grare, senior associate and director of Carnegie's South Asia Program, said in his latest article on Wednesday.

"The shift thus far has been prompted by short-term considerations and reflects Pakistan's weakness and isolation.

However, if the tentative changes lead to improvement in the country's economy and security, a meaningful shift in Pakistan's strategic character could take hold," he said.

Referring to the recent clashes between Pakistani and Indian forces in Kashmir, he said this indicate that tensions exist within the Pakistani security establishment about Islamabad's India policy.

"While occasional incidents are perhaps inevitable in the tense Kashmir environment, the alleged mutilation of the bodies of Indian soldiers could be interpreted as a provocation and an indication that the current course of action remains problematic in some quarters," he said.

"Moreover, there is no visible sign that the military intends to dismantle militant organisations with a record of attacking India in Kashmir and elsewhere," Grare wrote.

"So long as groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba persist, hostilities could resume, with or without the consent of the military. However, the fact that no major terrorist attack originating within Pakistan has taken place since the 2008 Mumbai attacks may indicate that Pakistan can control some of its most dangerous jihadi organisations, even if that control is not absolute," he added.

Arguing that Pakistan's visible rapprochement with India is fragile, he said given the convergence of short- and long-term interests within Pakistan, the normalisation could be expected to last.

"Should it endure, it would also enlarge the political space open to the civilian government, which has always been in favour of better economic relations with India and whose economic interests partly coincide (for once) with those of the military," he said.

"And if it lasts long enough, a warmer India-Pakistan dynamic could even alter the security establishment's perception of India. This may not be sufficient to change Pakistan's India-centric strategic calculations, but it could create an intermediary situation that would eventually permit a more comprehensive shift. That remains, however, speculative at this stage," Grare added.

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