No proof of Pak quitting terror: Study

None | ByArun Kumar (IANS), Washington
Oct 06, 2006 12:26 PM IST

Only the end of military rule in Pakistan can possibly end the confrontation with India, says an American think tank.

Despite a recent display of flexibility by Islamabad, there is still no evidence that Pakistan has renounced terrorism as a way of solving the dispute over Kashmir, according to a leading American think tank.

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For years the Pakistan Army has sponsored Islamist groups in Kashmir and, with the support of the United States, in Afghanistan, aggravating tension in the region, a new paper by The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace suggests.

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Only the end of military rule in Pakistan could possibly end the confrontation with India and calm the situation on the Afghan border, Frédéric Grare, a South Asia expert concludes, describing India as a key factor in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations in the post-9/11 era.

In his view the end of the military's political power would undoubtedly constitute an essential component of any attempt to stabilise not only Afghanistan but the entire region in a sustainable manner.

"Democratising Pakistan is not an intellectual and moral luxury, it is first and foremost a strategic imperative," says Grare.

A true normalisation of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan presupposes agreements on a number of geopolitical issues that could constitute the components of a so-called grand bargain with Pakistan, he says.

He looks at the peace brokered by US President George W Bush between his two key feuding allies with a White House dinner with presidents Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan as a "fragile partnership born of necessity."

Success of the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan is undoubtedly the first condition for the end of Pakistan's interference in Afghanistan, says Grare.

Whatever India's intentions - good or bad - in Afghanistan, they will feed Pakistani suspicions as long as the antagonism between the two countries persists.

Islamabad will then intervene in its western neighbour's affairs.

Although both India and Pakistan bear responsibility for the relative stagnation of the negotiations, Pakistan remains the anti-status quo country, he says.

Islamabad has shown flexibility in the manner in which the status quo could or should be revised, but there is still no discernable change in Islamabad' s ultimate objective.

Similarly, as exposed by the October 2005 earthquake and the free hand given by Islamabad to radical Islamist groups to participate in the relief operations, which led to a series of bomb blasts in New Delhi, there is still no evidence that Pakistan has renounced terrorism as a way of solving the dispute over Kashmir, Grare says.

Pakistan cannot therefore claim that whatever action it eventually takes in Afghanistan is the result of a necessity that it has itself contributed to creating, at least in its present form.

Pakistan needs the international presence much more than the international community needs Pakistan; it is Pakistan's best security guarantee in Afghanistan and in the region, Grare says, suggesting it be conditioned on a code of verifiable good conduct from Islamabad.

Ultimately, normalization of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan hinges on democratising Pakistan, he says citing Barnett Rubin: "Military domination of the Pakistani state is the problem."

For years, the Pakistani army has sponsored Islamist groups in Kashmir and, with the support of the United States, in Afghanistan and has therefore aggravated the problem, not helped to solve it.

Convergence of interests, not ideology, drove Pakistan's relations with the West.

Islamists were seen by the West as an antidote to communism and by Pakistan as a counterweight to Pashtun nationalism.

Afghanistan was also considered by both the West and by Pakistan as a useful buffer, offering Pakistan additional strategic depth against the Soviet Union.

The Soviet invasion gave Pakistan's military the opportunity to reverse the concept: To acquire additional strategic depth, vis-à-vis India this time, through the control of Afghanistan.

The almost concomitant end of both the Cold War and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan did not change the perspective, Grare says.

The new concept - despite its wide discussion and promotion by two military men, former director general of the ISI Hamid Gul and former chief of army staff Aslam Beg, it was never an official policy of the Pakistani state - made little military sense but clearly indicated Pakistan's willingness to control its weaker neighbour.

Hence, Pakistan supported the Taliban and their allies. Musharraf's reversal was essentially a temporary adjustment "to regain US trust and support," Grare says.

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