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US-Pak ties under strain: Expert

August 27, 2003 10:57 IST

As United States President George W Bush prepares for possible meetings with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf during the United Nations session in September, US's relations with Pakistan is coming under strain because of Musharraf's failure to end cross-border terrorism against India, according to John E Carbaugh, a Washington-based policy analyst, who advises the US administration and major US multinational firms.

"An increasing number of Bush Administration officials are pressing for a tougher US stance with Pakistan," Carbaugh said citing the views of many scholars who have expressed concern over Pakistani policies.

"Let us remember," writes Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Programme at the Centre for International Policy in Washington, "that Pakistan was the chief political and financial sponsor of the Taliban in Afghanistan from the beginning."

"Without a Taliban regime in Kabul, Afghanistan never would have become a safe haven for Al Qaeda. Pakistan was, therefore, more than a little responsible for September 11. Even after that attack, Islamabad turned against the Taliban only in response to intense pressure from the US.

"Pakistani forces were ineffectual in sealing the border with Afghanistan when US troops had Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters on the run in late 2001, yet the Musharraf government refused to give the US the right of hot pursuit into Pakistani territory.

"As a result, terrorist units regrouped in Pakistan's border provinces and to this day continue to harass US forces in Afghanistan," says Harrison.

Moeed Yusuf of the Brookings Institution goes so far as to say that had it not been for Pakistan's limited help in Afghanistan, the country would have been a major target in Washington's war on terror.

"The support for extremist organisations and the presence of radicals among Pakistani elements has caused great concern in the West. Had it not been for the reversal of Pakistan's pro-Taliban policy after 9/11, Pakistan would likely have been on the US list of terrorist countries as implied by George Bush's 'with us or against us' ultimatum."

Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution has said in an article titled 'The Jihadist Threat to Pakistan' that radical Islamic groups - some of who are involved in cross-border terrorism against India - are seeking revolutionary changes in Pakistan's political and social order.

"The dangers of Islamic radicalism in Pakistan in the short run have been exaggerated, but within a decade, that country could truly become one of the world's most dangerous States," he says.

Harry Gould, visiting scholar in the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Virginia, says the US has not learned its lesson from its Cold War support for Pakistan.

"At least half of the amount (out of the $3 billion aid for Pakistan promised by President Bush) will go for military assistance, the very thing that economically desperate and politically frail Pakistan needs the least, and, indeed, has always needed the least.

"In the past, such deals have eventually led to some kind of military confrontation with India because it meant a fresh infusion of military wherewithal with which the Generals could pursue their political ambitions," Gould says.

Mohan Malik, professor of Security Studies at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, says: "India feels slighted and uneasy over Pakistan's new relationship with the US because in many ways what happens on the Indian subcontinent is unavoidably a zero-sum game."

More than anything else, Malik warns, "the Pakistan factor continues to cast a dark shadow on the future of US-Indian ties."

Mahnaz Ispahani of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations concedes: "I think there is a fundamental divergence in American and Pakistani interests around Kashmir and nuclear weapons. These are two areas that are important for the US, particularly in South Asia, if Washington wants to pursue its relationship with India - an important and growing relationship."

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