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India indispensable regional actor: US report

A report by a team of Asia Society experts, including a former US ambassador to India, has told Obama administration that it must encourage Pakistan and India to speak directly about their mutual suspicions toward each other's interests in Afghanistan.

world Updated: Apr 06, 2009 01:29 IST

Observing that India is an 'indispensable regional actor', an independent task force of the US-based Asia Society has stressed on the need to have friendly relationship between India and Pakistan.

Co-chaired by Thomas Pickering, who was US Ambassador to India from 1992 to 1993, and Barnett Rubin and a team of eminent experts of the region, the task force's report 'A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan' was recently submitted to the Obama administration and released to the public.

Set up last year by the Asia Society, the task force included Richard Holbrooke, the Special US Representatives for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and General James Jones, National Security Advisor of Obama. But both of them stepped down from the task force before the first draft was written, and as such they are not associated with the report, it says.

India is an indispensable regional actor, task force said in its 50-page report. "The United States should undertake to relieve Pakistan's anxiety about the Indian consulates in Afghanistan (which, contrary to what Pakistan says, do have legitimate consular functions) by encouraging transparency and dialogue between the two countries in Afghanistan, it said.

Specifically, the United States should encourage Pakistan and India to speak directly about their mutual suspicions toward each other's interests in Afghanistan.

India, the report said, will argue that it has legitimate interests in Afghanistan and that it is a major donor to the international effort to rebuild that country.

Pakistan, on the other hand it said, will charge that India is running operations out of its consulates in Afghanistan in order to stir up trouble across the border.

"Pakistan sees itself as caught in a vice between its western and eastern neighbors. But these long-standing concerns are now being trumped by a new reality the need for India and Pakistan to look beyond their traditional rivalries and to agree on a joint strategy to confront the extremists operating along the PakistanAfghanistan border and in their respective countries," it said.

Besides supporting a composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, the report said the Obama administration need to inform Pakistan that active support and engagement for this process will depend on its concrete action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and similar events. The report said unless the Pakistan military comes to see its domestic insurgents as a greater threat than India, it is unlikely to support the plans needed to integrate FATA, close militant bases, and develop counterinsurgency capacity.

The task force has also urged the US to take steps to make sure that there is free land transit of Afghan products across Pakistan to India.

Observing that the security establishment in Pakistan has always considered both the Afghan Taliban and militant groups fighting in Kashmir to be strategic assets, the report said: Transfixed by what it views as a far greater Indian threat, it has been reluctant to recognize that the support structures and networks for these groups have also provided a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and groups fighting the Pakistani state under the banner of the Pakistan Taliban Movement (Tehrik-i Taliban-i Pakistan), led by Baitullah Mehsud.