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Well begun but not half done

india Updated: Apr 30, 2009 21:49 IST
Hindustan Times
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The security of the subcontinent can be said to now depend on a mindset change among Pakistanis. Namely, a recognition that the existential threat facing their nation is no longer, as they have long believed, from India but from the alliance of militant groups generally called the ‘Pakistan Taliban’. It is significant that the United States president, Barack Obama, dwelt on this issue during his speech marking 100 days in office. “You’re starting to see some recognition,” he said, “that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided.” He added that the Pakistani military was starting to take the Taliban threat “more seriously.”

Mr Obama was presumably referring to the recent military offensives launched by the Pakistani military against Taliban forces in the Northwest Frontier Province. The offensives in the Buner and Lower Dir provinces have been pyrotechnically impressive: complete with artillery barrages, attack helicopters and fighter aircraft. Whether this will pave the way for Islamabad to restore control of these regions, let alone roll back the Taliban from the Swat Valley, is yet to be seen.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari accompanied the attacks with an exhortation to his people to give full support to the military and “demonstrate our will to keep Pakistan as a moderate, modern and democratic state." The optimistic take on all this is that both Washington and Islamabad are coming around to what New Delhi has long argued: Pakistan’s military should be casting its eyes westward not eastward. Mr Obama’s use of the word ‘obsession’ to describe Pakistan’s views on India and the US Congress’s open questioning of Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terror indicates a convergence in the perspectives of India and the US.

The jury is still out on whether the Pakistani establishment has understood how much its own creation, the Taliban, has broken free of its control. After all, the recent military offensive was done only after severe arm-twisting by the US. In other words, it took a foreign government to force the Pakistani army to attack insurgents who had come within 100 kilometres of the national capital. This indicates that the old mindset still has many levels of evolution to pass through before it can really be said that Pakistan is standing up to the Taliban.

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