U.S. slams Pakistan for using militant proxies against India.
In its report on “Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” tabled in the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon said, “Afghan – and India – focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military.”
The report also strongly hints that the terrorist attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, in May, was deliberately timed to coincide with Mr. Modi’s swearing-in.
“In May of this reporting period, the Indian consulate in Herat Province was attacked by a group of four heavily armed militants. The attack came three days prior to the swearing-in of the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi is perceived as being close to Hindu nationalist groups, a fact that may have played into the timing of the attack,” the report said.
It added that within a month of that strike the U.S. State Department announced that the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was responsible for the violence.
The report assumes additional significance as given Mr. Modi’s use of similar terms when he said in August, “The neighbouring country has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism.”
Additional praise for India in the report focused on New Delhi’s continued support for a stable and secure Afghanistan, and in this regard the Pentagon said, “India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership declaration in 2011, which formalised cooperation on governance, economics, commerce, education, public administration, and security and law enforcement.”
Experts here appeared to be divided upon the significance of the statement on Pakistan’s use of militant proxies in the conflict with India.
Lisa Curtis, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said to The Hindu, “U.S. government officials have long known and privately acknowledged that Pakistan supports militant groups that attack India and Afghanistan. The U.S. may be more willing to acknowledge this fact publicly as it withdraws U.S. forces from Afghanistan and relies less and less on logistical supply lines running through Pakistan.”
She added that this “blunt assessment” was in line with the Obama-Modi Joint Statement, which emphasised that the U.S. and India would work together to counter terrorist groups operating in the region and that Washington viewed LeT as an international threat and not “solely through an Indo-Pakistani prism.”
Further, Ms. Curtis said, this perspective could imply that the U.S. “will not shy away from taking steps to condemn, isolate, and punish the LeT, even if it angers the Pakistani government.”
However, Daniel Markey Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations noted that the report reiterated sentiments that have been voiced by the U.S. government in the past, notably including by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen when he testified about the Haqqani network’s links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
In this context, Dr. Markey said to The Hindu, “I perceive the timing as being driven only by normal bureaucratic concerns and congressional mandates, and I don’t believe that the report is based on new or different intelligence or analysis, although it is updated.”
He added that he did not see a shift in U.S. policy, “especially since there are sections of the report that emphasise the need for U.S.-Pakistan cooperation: ‘The U.S. continues to seek a constructive relationship with Pakistan that advances both U.S. and Pakistani interests.”
Further, Dr. Markey noted that even though the report came a little more than a month after Mr. Modi’s much-touted U.S. visit, “I don’t imagine that there is a strong connection [of this report, with the Modi administration],” adding that it was “Not even 100% clear that the India side of the house would have had much to do with the drafting of the report.”
Suhasini Haidar adds:
“If the international community is now acknowledging the fact that terrorism derives support from Pak, its something that we welcome,” Syed Akbaruddin, the Official Spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs, said.
“We need to focus on terrorism as an evil scourge against whole of mankind. We have always held that the issue of terrorism should not been segmented”