Pak hedging in talks with India: Study
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Pak hedging in talks with India: Study

A US-based think tank says Musharraf is 'hedging' in talks with India by letting Kashmiri terror groups to operate.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 15:56 IST

Noting that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is clearly "hedging" in talks with India by allowing Kashmiri terrorist groups to continue to operate, a leading United States think tank has asked Washington to send a consistent message to Islamabad to deny safe haven to terrorists.

The Heritage Foundation has said Washington should privately acknowledge the links between the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Pakistan groups that target India and ask Islamabad to deny a safe haven to militants regardless of whether they attack coalition forces in Afghanistan or innocent civilians in India or elsewhere.

Observing that US expectations are that Islamabad develop an equally uncompromising policy toward all three groups, it said, "This means that Pakistan must shut down training facilities associated with international terrorist incidents, including institutions run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Muridke and the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Bahawalpur.

"Washington should emphasize the dangers of Islamabad's maintaining a permissive attitude toward groups that commit terrorism and remind Pakistani officials that US laws require sanctions against states that support terror groups," Lisa Curtis of the Foundation said in the paper.

The paper said the US should not try to involve itself directly in resolving the Indo-Pak dispute, but should continue to talk about the issue separately with both sides and inject ideas into their dialogue process.

"President Musharraf is clearly hedging in talks with India by allowing Kashmiri militant groups to continue to operate.

The US needs to convince Musharraf to instead put his faith in the Indo-Pak dialogue," it said.

"A genuine peace process between New Delhi and a wide spectrum of Kashmiri leaders that addresses political grievances and human rights issues would also help to temper the Pakistani public's emotional reactions to Kashmir and widen public support for a genuine crackdown on violent groups," the think tank said.

"Encouraging travel back and forth across the LoC (started by the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus link) and greater interaction and cooperation between officials from both sides of the LoC will widen the constituencies for peace and help to isolate violent extremists," it said.

The paper pointed out that Pakistani President has so far been reluctant to take concrete steps to rein in 'jihadists' that fight in Kashmir, mainly because his government believes the militancy is Islamabad's only way to keep pressure on India and to force New Delhi's hand in negotiations over the contested territory.

"New Delhi's allegations that a Pakistan-based terrorist group and Pakistan's intelligence agency were involved in the Mumbai bomb blasts could derail Indo-Pakistani bilateral talks unless Pakistan takes concrete steps to crackdown on domestic terrorist groups," it said.

"While Washington should encourage such a crackdown, it will also need to acknowledge Pakistan's interest in seeing substantive movement on India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir.

In this context, Washington should encourage New Delhi to take additional confidence-building measures on Kashmir and to involve the Kashmiris in a peace process that addresses human rights concerns and political grievances," The Heritage said.

Noting that Musharraf would find it politically challenging to pursue a broader crackdown on domestic terrorists that strike in India and abroad, it said religious parties would label such a crackdown as surrender to India over Kashmir.

However, Musharraf could draw support for such a crackdown from other parts of Pakistani society, such as the secular political parties, the business community, and Pakistanis who have been involved in people-to-people exchanges with Indians over the past few years," it suggested.

It stressed that a more serious dialogue on Kashmir between India and Pakistan and deeper engagement by the US would help to give Pakistan confidence that its viewpoint has been taken into account.

"Washington needs to strengthen its policy toward Pakistan in ways that both demonstrate long-term US commitment to the relationship and press Pakistan to expand its efforts against violent extremists.

The best chance for success against violent extremism in Pakistan lies in a strategy that prioritises economic and democratic development and the pursuit of better ties with neighboring countries, namely Afghanistan and India.

"Washington should support these objectives and encourage greater economic interdependence among these three South Asian countries," Curtis has said.

The foundation said Pakistan needed to come down hard on any elements that are found protecting or sheltering Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

"This may require Musharraf to punish lower-level individuals within his own intelligence and security services who have helped Taliban leaders evade capture by US forces in the past.

"This is a tall order for Musharraf, given the deep institutional links between the intelligence and security services and the Taliban," the paper has argued stressing the point that Islamabad has to have a "zero tolerance policy".

"Links between Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups and international terrorist incidents further demonstrate the need for Islamabad to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward violent extremism," it added.

First Published: Oct 27, 2006 12:14 IST