The United States must avoid signalling it considers Pakistan-based terrorist groups that attack India less of a terrorism threat than al Qaeda as they all share an anti-West agenda and hence "must be defeated", an expert has suggested.
"Preventing Indo-Pakistani conflict is a high priority for the US, and Washington should encourage the two countries to continue dialogue that was officially resumed earlier this year," Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation told a Congressional panel Wednesday.
"However, the US must avoid sending the signal that it considers Pakistan-based terrorist groups that attack India less of a terrorism threat than al Qaeda, she said. "The groups that focus on attacking India cooperate with al Qaeda and share its pan-Islamist, anti-West agenda, and thus must be defeated in order to contain the overall terrorist threat in the region."
Testifying on "US-India Counterterrorism Cooperation: Deepening the Partnership" before a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade, Curtis suggested that the US and India should enhance intelligence-sharing and cooperation without prejudice to Pakistani political sensitivities.
The US should never stifle counterterrorism cooperation with India in deference to Pakistani political sensitivities as this would only strengthen the hands of the terrorists, she warned.
"Instead, the US must make clear to Pakistan that its tolerance or support of terrorist groups will lead to international isolation and a weakened position in the region," Curtis said.
A survey of terrorist attacks occurring in India over the last five years validates the theory that terrorism in India is increasingly being conducted by Indians working closely with Pakistan-based terrorist groups, Curtis said.
Despite wide-ranging anti-terrorism cooperation, a lingering trust deficit has pervaded the US-Indian relationship and prevented deeper cooperation on specific regional threats, she said.
"The hesitant US approach to sharing information on Pakistan-based terrorist groups with India does not serve US interests and cripples the US ability to fully get a handle on terrorist threats emanating from South Asia," Curtis said.
Downplaying connections between al Qaeda and terrorist groups that mainly focus on attacking India is counterproductive, she said.
By choosing to view the activities of al Qaeda and other Pakistan-based terrorists groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, held responsible for the Nov 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, through a separate lens, US officials have failed to hold Pakistan accountable for dealing effectively with terrorists located on its territory, Curtis said.