THERE was a time not too long ago when the United States gave preference in practically everything to Pakistan. The dice was loaded very heavily in Pakistan’s favour. Of course India could not be overlooked completely so the Americans treated India as its step-son. India meanwhile kept on warning the Americans that they should not trust their so called “Strategic Ally” Pakistan completely and should adopt a more cautious line, but for years now the United States chose to give India a deaf ear and continue ignoring the warnings. India has been insisting that the main “issue of contention” between India and Pakistan is not “Kashmir” as claimed by the Pakistan but the promotion of terror by Pakistan as a State policy. The Pakistani’s not only allow the jihadi groups to use their soil for training camps but also supply them with arms, logistic support and finances. This has to stop.
For the first time the United States has publicly admitted that the real important issue between India and Pakistan is “Terror” and not Kashmir. “I don’t think Kashmir is really the question that’s on the table now,” said the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake in an interview to BBC recently. “The real question right now is to first, I think, is terror. We would like to see some progress on the trial of the Mumbai suspects, those who are already in custody in Pakistan and also from the Indian perspective to see progress by Pakistan on stopping actions by Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Punjab-based terrorist groups against India,” Blake said. Blake’s remarks came on the American perspective on Indo-US talks. He said that the above mentioned issues are the real “redlines” for re-establishing the composite dialogue. India and Pakistan will hold Foreign Minister level talks next month.
Robert Blake, the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, acknowledged that India had been less enthusiastic over US military support to Pakistan than the economic aid, but said; “I think they understand that we are trying to build up Pakistan’s counter insurgency capabilities.” He significantly added : “The United States has sought Pakistan’s assurances that the weapons that are provided will not be used against India.” US officials are also pressing Pakistan to act against virulently anti-Indian groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is blamed in the bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai. “The United States consistently emphasizes that it is very important in particular for Pakistan to take action against these groups that are targeting not only India but increasingly the United states,” Blake said.
Pakistan has been playing a double game with the United States. Time and again reports have disclosed that the Pakistani’s through their notorious intelligence agency the ISI has been passing on funds and military hardware supplied by the US to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements. In what could be damning proof of a sinister double game by Pakistan in Afghanistan, a report by the London School of Economics (LSE) has established a clear link between the Afghan Taliban and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).The report, which is based on several interviews and is backed by two top western security officials, said supporting the Taliban was the ‘official’ strategy of the ISI, and that “Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude in Afghanistan.” “As the provider of sanctuary and substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency, the ISI appears to have strong strategic and operational influence – reinforced by coercion. There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign,” the report said. This reports findings make a mockery of the West’s policy of pouring billions of dollars of aid into Pakistan while simultaneously negotiating with what it calls the ‘good Taliban’.
Pakistan has for years been successful in playing an astonishing double game. Pakistan’s continued support to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is costing the Nato forces very heavily in Afghanistan.As has been Pakistan;s official policy they deny all such adverse reports and continue ashamedly in their double game policy.Another credible report appearing in The Sunday Times claims that Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari recently met captured Taliban leaders in Pakistan to assure them of his governments full support. The Sunday Times said Zardari met 50 high-ranking militants at a prison in Pakistan in April. During the meeting Zardari told the captive extremist leaders that Islamabad was under tremendous pressure from the US to dismantle the Taliban’s terror sanctuary in Pakistan and nab the ringleaders, nevertheless the Pakistan government would continue backing the Afghan insurgency. “You are our people, we are friends, and after your release we will support you,” Zardari was quoted as saying by a Taliban leader who was in jail at the time and released five days later. The report prepared by Matt Waldman, a Harvard analyst, also claimed that even President Asif Ali Zardari was hand in gloves in the crime. During his visit, Zardari is also said to have met Mullah Ghani Barader, Taliban’s second in command, who was captured near Karachi in January this year. Five days after Zardari’s visit, a handful of Taliban prisoners were driven into Quetta and set free, in line with the ‘president’s pledge’, the report said.”This report is consistent with Pakistan’s political history in which civilian leaders actively backed jihadi groups that operate in Afghanistan and Kashmir,” it added.
Equally damaging for the Pakistan government were quoted in The Sunday Times report from Taliban members and Western officials saying up to seven of the 15 men who sit on the Taliban war council – the Quetta shura – were ISI agents. Some sources maintained every shura member had ISI links. The report further says that interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representative in the shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is involved at the highest levels of the movement. Even the former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, Amrullah Saleh, who resigned recently after president Hamid Karzai questioned his loyalty, put a stamp on this nefarious strategy of Pakistan.”The ISI is part of the landscape of destruction in this country no doubt, so it will be a waste of time to provide evidence of ISI involvement. They are a part of it,” The Times Online quoted Saleh, as saying.
What the West has to realise is that without a change in Pakistani behaviour, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgence. More than 1,800 NATO and US-led coalition soldiers have been killed in the Afghan conflict since 2002. Embarrassingly for Western policy makers, the reports claimed improvised explosive devices responsible for killing most British soldiers in Afghanistan were introduced to Taliban by Pakistani officials.
(The writer is editor of daily Vir Arjun and daily Pratap)