General David Petraeus, architect of the US military surge credited with dramatically reducing violence in Iraq, has said that Pakistan's leaders need to realise that their biggest threat comes from internal extremists, not from neighbouring India.
"It's an intellectually dislocating idea for the institutions of Pakistan," Petraeus, the leader of US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told a forum at the Harvard University on Tuesday, referring to the country's military and political establishment.
The goal in working with Pakistan, whose Afghanistan border has become a haven for insurgents, is to help its officials understand that "the existential threat" facing Pakistan "is internal extremists and not India," Petraeus said.
The terrorist attacks on Mumbai last November by Pakistan-based extremist group Laskar-e-Taiba, "was a big setback," he said. The Mumbai attack "was a true 9/11 moment" for India, Petraeus said, adding the government in New Delhi "displayed considerable restraint."
Calling on Islamabad to change its mindset toward India, Petraeus said the shift in thinking that should take place in Pakistan is similar to what happened in the US after the Cold War. America had grown "comfortable" facing off against the Soviet Union, he added.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that tensions with India over Kashmir were diverting Pakistan from the fight against extremism.
India realises the "desirability of reducing tensions" so Pakistan can focus its efforts on combating terrorists, Petraeus told reporters later, according to the Boston Globe.
Many of the lessons learned and the ideas developed from the conflict in Iraq can be applied to the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Petraeus, but not without modification.