Pakistan is responsible for perpetrating cross-border terrorism in South Asia and destabilising Afghanistan, policy experts attending a seminar held at the University of London said recently.
Hosted by the London-based The Democracy Forum (TDF), the seminar titled 'Will the new US Afghan policy prevent cross-border terrorism in the region' saw speakers unanimously expressing alarm and concern over Pakistan's relentless extension of support to terrorists, leading even one of them to declare Islamabad a "duplicit enemy" of the United States.
Professor Thomas H. Johnson, Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, said he was in favour of ramping up pressure on Pakistan to change its ways by cutting military aid to even declaring the country a state sponsor of terrorism. He also expressed his horror at the recent release from house arrest of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
Johnson opined that Washington has the leverage to force Islamabad to change its ways, but added that the problems in Afghanistan could not be solved without the involvement of Pakistan and India.
Dismissive of Washington's new Afghan policy, he said the former would not be able to stop cross-border terrorism in the region.
Afghanistan's former envoy to France and Canada, Omar Samad, highlighted that an important element of President Trump's South Asia strategy is to pressurise Pakistan to stop harbouring terrorists. He said President Trump's public condemnation of Islamabad and his decision to increase American troops on ground was reflective of this strategy.
Ambassador Azami, however, noted that till date there had been little change in Pakistan's behaviour, and therefore, currently, the immediate need and hope was for preventing more bloodshed by stopping cross-border meddling and maintenance of terror sanctuaries by Pakistan as well as Iran.
From Afghanistan's perspective, he was cautiously optimistic about the new US policy, calling it more focused, better defined in terms of benchmarks and with more promising prospects. He admitted that the success of the policy would largely depend on implementation of follow-throughs.
Dr. Dawood Azami of the BBC World Service opined that the biggest challenge faced by the new US policy was from regional rivalries with many neighbouring countries, most notably Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan, being against a long-term US presence in Afghanistan. Therefore, he said that without the support of such key regional players, it would be a challenge for new strategy to succeed.
TDF President Lord Bruce observed that America would need to work hard to prevent the instability of Afghanistan from spilling over and stoking tensions between India, Pakistan and China.
The seminar, which was moderated journalist Owen Bennet Jones, was held at the Senate House, University of London. The welcome address was delivered by Lord Bruce.