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US must reassure Pakistan about India, says US official

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : With Pakistan’s traditional defence posture still geared to conventional military conflict with India and not counterinsurgency, a top Pentagon official says the US needs to reassure an Islamabad wary about growing India-US relations.

“Although extremist attacks have led to the repositioning of substantial Pakistani forces, Pakistan’s strategic concerns about India remain pre-eminent,” Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary for Policy in the Department of Defence, told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday.

“We must continue to reassure Pakistan that as it combats the terrorist threat, it is not exposing itself to increased risk along its eastern border,” she said noting that Pakistan is also wary about the increasing Indo-US relationship.

“A final hurdle, frankly, relates to the legacy of mistrust between the United States and Pakistan. Past US sanctions, past Pakistani concerns about the growing US-India relationship, its scepticism about US staying power in the region have made it a weary partner,” Flournoy said.

Flournoy’s testimony came a day after the Pentagon informed the US Congress that the Pakistan army had moved more than 100,000 troops from the eastern border with India to the border with Afghanistan to meet the growing threat from terrorism and internal insurgency.

Noting that Pakistan’s traditional defence posture is and always has been geared to conventional military conflict with India and not a counterinsurgency, she said Pakistani leadership was earlier reluctant to acknowledge such groups as serious threats to their state security.

“In the past, the Pakistan approach to dealing with violent extremists relied primarily on limited and often inconclusive military operations, as well as tenuous cease-fire agreements, all of which collapsed immediately.

“Pakistan’s approach to military networks changed when these militants began directing their violence inward, against the Pakistani state, the people and the society,” Flournoy said.

“Similarly, reports of Pakistan’s tolerance and support for some violent extremist groups have created scepticism on the US side,” she said, adding that this is a partnership that is absolutely vital to US national interests.

“But it is also complex. And the need for candid dialogue and mutual reassurance remains very strong, and I believe we have made substantial progress in this regard over the last year,” she said.

India too has moved troops from the Pakistan border with US making “overtures, obviously, that trying to diminish the feeling of a threat there will have mutual benefits and a lessening of tensions within the region,” another official testified.

“And I think we have good partners and allies on both sides of the India-Pakistan equation,” Lt. Gen John Paxton, Director for Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])