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'Real stability in SA impossible without India, Pak'

There would be no stability in the region, unless the two South Asian neighbours, India and Pakistan work together, the US defense secretary has said.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2012 11:41 IST

There would be no stability in the region, unless the two South Asian neighbours, India and Pakistan work together, the US defense secretary has said.

"We're never going to have real stability in the region without India and Pakistan -- and for that matter, Afghanistan -- working together to try to deal with common threats, particularly those threats from terrorism," Leon Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday.

Panetta said he has always emphasized on the need to have better relationship between the two countries.

"One of the things I've always tried to stress in that region is the importance of India and Pakistan working together to deal with the issues that they confront," Panetta said.

Panetta had visited India in June, during which he had emphasized on greater Indian role in Afghanistan.

Of late the Obama Administration has appreciated the efforts by both New Delhi and Islamabad to improve their bilateral ties.

Leon Panetta on Tuesday also said that there was a danger of nuclear weapons of Pakistan falling into hands of terrorists if terrorism is not controlled.

"The great danger we've always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country, than those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands," Panetta said.

Panetta was responding to questions on a recent Congressional report which said Pakistan is increasing its nuclear capabilities, which are mainly targeted towards India.

"When I talk to the Pakistanis, I've always stressed the fact that we should have common cause with regards to confronting terrorism; that terrorists not only represent a threat to our country, terrorism represents a real threat to their country as well," he said.

"A lot of Pakistanis have died as a result of terrorism. A lot of members of their military have died as a result of terrorism. And it's important for them to recognize that threat and to act against that threat. And in particular, it's important because they are a nuclear power," Panetta said.

In a recent report the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) had said that Pakistan is increasing its production of nuclear weapons and improving the delivery mechanism of nukes, which is mainly targeted towards India.

"Pakistan appears to be increasing its fissile production capability and improving its delivery vehicles in order to hedge against possible increases in India's nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad may also accelerate its current nuclear weapons efforts," the report said.

CRS said that Pakistan's nuclear weapons program is mainly aimed to address the threat perception it has from India and thus act as a deterrent from India.

"India has stated that it needs only a "credible minimum deterrent," but New Delhi has never defined what it means by such a deterrent and has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," it said, adding that Pakistani officials have stated that the government may need to increase significantly its nuclear arsenal in response to possible Indian plans to do the same.

In addition to making qualitative and quantitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan could increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use nuclear weapons, the report said.

The CRS in its report said Pak's nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 90-110 nuclear warheads, although it could be larger.

"Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, and deploying additional delivery vehicles," it said, adding these steps could enable Pakistan to undertake both quantitative and qualitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal.

First Published: Aug 15, 2012 09:11 IST