Monday, December 1, 2008

Policy experts rule out war between Pakistan and India

Scholars rule out war but say situation dangerous
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, December 1, 2008

WASHINGTON, Nov 30: A major troop mobilisation on the Indian border will force Pakistan to withdraw troops from the Afghan border, said a US expert on South Asian affairs.

But Marvin Weinbaum, a former adviser to the US State Department on South Asia who now works for a Washington think-tank, believed that the situation had not yet reached a point where Pakistan could begin withdrawing its troops from the Afghan border.“This is high politics,” said Christine Fair another US expert on South Asia. “The Pakistan Army knows the United States cares that it remains engaged in the war against terror, so by declaring that it is going to withdraw, it is trying to put pressure on Washington” to persuade New Delhi not to mobilise its troops.

Dr Weinbaum agreed with her. “It is politics. The Pakistanis are trying to tell the Americans: keep the Indians off our backs. If they get too aggressive, we will reconsider our cooperation in the war against terror,” he said.

The two scholars, in separate interviews to Dawn, also ruled out the possibility that India and Pakistan could actually go to a war over the Mumbai terror attacks but warned the situation is fraught with dangers.

At least one other scholar agreed.

“It would certainly complicate everything, put things on hold, make any negotiations harder,” said Terry Pattar, a counter-terrorism associate in the Strategic Advisory Services at Jane’s Information Group, which publishes the Jane’s Defence Weekly.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is understood to have urged the Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee not to escalate tensions with Pakistan. She also appealed for calm when she spoke to President Asif Ali Zardari.

Ms Rice has spoken at least twice to each leader since the Mumbai terror attacks began on Wednesday.

Ms Fair said she was still not sure how ten Pakistanis could have executed the attacks on their own. She also noted that the Mumbai attacks were quite different from Lashkar-i-Tayyaba’s earlier attacks. Indian officials claim to have gathered evidence to show that the LT was behind the Mumbai attacks.Ms Fair, however, warned that if Pakistan were to withdraw troops from the Afghan border, it will put a lot of strain on US-Pakistan relationship. “The goodwill between US and Pakistan is going to be sourer. Washington would be very concerned if Pakistan were to remove or diminish its focus on its internal security threats.”

Mr Weinbaum noted that nothing would be achieved by bringing Indian troops to the Pakistani border. “Creating a security threat does not weaken the jihadi forces, it makes them stronger,” he said.

Dr Weinbaum urged India to work with the Pakistani government to bring pressure on groups like LT and Jaish-i-Mohammed.

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