US seeks new arc of stability with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US says military cooperation will remain a key element of its relationship with Islamabad as it seeks to build a new arc of stability with a thriving Pakistan, a secure Afghanistan and an increasingly wealthy India.

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“More than ever, our national security depends on the success, security, and stability of Pakistan,” US Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte said Monday outlining Washington’s foreign policy with the new democratic government.

“Pakistan is a vitally important nation,” he said noting, “It is the world’s third most populous Muslim state. It is a nuclear power and it is situated in a strategically crucial neighborhood of India, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. And it is a front-line state in the battle against terrorism.”

The US hoped “to establish a new framework for political, economic, and security assistance to Pakistan’s democracy – one that represents the type of partnership only possible between two democracies with a common interest in good governance, economic development, and combating violent extremism,” he said.

“I want to emphasize that military cooperation will remain an important feature of that partnership, for reasons related specifically to the war on terrorism and more generally to the value of cultivating good relations with regional powers,” the second ranking US diplomat said.

“Closer economic relations among Pakistan, Afghanistan, and their neighbours are also essential to building a secure peace in South Asia,” he said at the National Endowment for Democracy’s Pakistan Forum

“Regional economic integration, and expanding South Asia’s ties with the world economy, are essential foundations for human security and prosperity.”

“A region encompassing a thriving Pakistan alongside a secure Afghanistan and trading freely with an increasingly wealthy India would constitute a new arc of stability in what has been until now one of the world’s most dangerous regions,” Negroponte said.

“Together, Pakistan and Afghanistan could form an economic bridge between Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, and Central Asia,” he said. ” We envision such a future for both Pakistan and Afghanistan and want to work with them to make it possible.”

During the 1990s, the estrangement between America and Pakistan created a strategic disconnect between their two militaries, Negroponte said noting, “A generation of United States and Pakistan military officers did not cooperate with one another as closely as they could have.”

“So we are exploring ways to increase military exchange and training programmes to re-engage with middle and senior ranking Pakistani officers, to give them experience working jointly with the United States,” he said.

Stressing “Pakistan’s tremendous importance” to the US, he said Washington expected Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to be strong partners against violent extremists in Pakistan’s frontier areas.

“We will not be satisfied until all the violent extremism emanating from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is brought under control,” Negroponte said.

In all his recent meetings with Pakistani leaders, he said: “I have heard a consensus: while we all recognize that a successful strategy in the tribal areas must include the possibility of military operations, it must also include a serious and sustained economic development programme and improvements in education and governance.”

Asked if the US still considered President Pervez Musharraf an indispensable ally, Negroponte said the phrase sort of “personalised the characterisation of Pakistan’s collaboration with US”.

“But it really is shorthand for the nation of Pakistan and it’s a shorthand for saying that Pakistan is in an indispensable situation in terms of dealing with the threats we confront in the war on terror.”

This was so “because of the border area, because of Al Qaida, because of the position that this whole Al Qaida threat poses to our interests, the interests of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world.”