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US must snap out of delusion that terror supporting Pak will change its stripes

News Agencies | Updated on: 12 January 2018, 10:36 IST

Pakistan's armed forces and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate will be more willing to sacrifice American defence assistance, U.S. taxpayer money and all other goodies that come with that relationship, rather than cut off decades-long ties with extremists who are seen as effective proxies to check arch-rival India's influence over the region.

Expressing this view in an article for The National Interest, Daniel DePetris, a fellow at Defense Priorities, says, "The Beltway foreign policy establishment needs to snap itself out of the delusion that the Pakistanis will change their stripes. It will take a lot more than an aid cut or a public scolding (by President Donald Trump) to capture the Pakistani Army's attention."

"And even then, the generals running the show may see a higher value in groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network than in an annual billion-dollar check from Washington," he adds.

He maintains that circumstances or an issue at hand determines the Washington-Islamabad narrative.

"(They) can either be partners working in concert or adversaries," DePetris says.

Both nations, in effect, view one another warily at best and hostile, ungrateful, or duplicitous at worst. A relationship such as this, even one that is transactional, cannot stand for long, he warns.

He opines that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is not so much about personalities, but more about the two holding completely different views of which terrorist groups should take priority and how Afghanistan should be governed.

In Afghanistan, U.S. policy has been consistent about supporting Kabul in its aim of grinding down Taliban insurgents in order to convince its leadership to reconcile and join the mainstream, and to ensure that Afghanistan never becomes a haven for transnational terrorism.

For the Pakistanis, Afghanistan isn't necessarily about terrorism, but an indelible extension of its intense historical and geopolitical rivalry with India.

India in the eyes of the Pakistani military remains a top threat to Pakistan's national sovereignty and security. An Indian role in Afghanistan, however benign or insignificant, is frowned upon in Islamabad as yet another attempt by New Delhi to encircle it, contain Pakistan's freedom of movement, and gain additional leverage in the region at its expense.

Within the Pakistani military establishment, it's simply impossible and inconceivable for India to foment deep roots in a country that it views-rightly or wrongly-as within its sphere of influence.

Armed groups that the United States designates as terrorist organizations or impediments to an Afghan peace process are utilized as assets in Pakistan to keep India's regional influence at bay.

"The Haqqani Network, the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar e-Taiba, and the any number of extremist organisations that operate, fundraise and recruit on Pakistani soil are not so much agents of destruction for Pakistan as they are valuable cards in the deck. The groups are not to be shunned or combated, but exploited as tools in Pakistan's national-security strategy against New Delhi," DePetris concludes.


First published: 12 January 2018, 10:36 IST