Saturday, 21 May 2011

US Pressure On India To Engage Pakistan

By Anwar Iqbal
Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the United States has been continuously urging India to engage Pakistan in bilateral talks, but New Delhi refuses to do so until Islamabad meets its demands first.

A cable sent to Washington by the US Embassy in New Delhi on June 29, 2009, quoted former National Security Adviser James Jones querying the then India army cChief Gen. Deepak Kapoor on prospects of upgrading Indo-Pakistan military talks to discuss bilateral issues.

“Gen Kapoor rhetorically asked whether there should not be a degree of confidence in Pakistan before such a dialogue can even begin,” the cable noted.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who also attended the meeting where Mr Jones raised this issue, interjected that “unless there is some tangible follow-up action by Pakistan against the perpetrators of the 11/26 attacks (in Mumbai), discussions with Pakistan will be difficult.”

Regarding the Indian complaint that Pakistan still had terrorist camps on its territory, Mr Jones told Mr Antony and Gen Kapoor that the US would take up the issue with Pakistan.

But the US national security adviser reminded the Indians that “regional problems require regional solutions” and underscored “the need for all of us to move forward on a broader strategy by building confidence and trust”. Mr Antony told Mr Jones that India had a stake in Afghanistan, reminding him that India’s borders before partition extended up to Afghanistan.

“The Indian military is concerned by the situation in Afghanistan,” Mr Antony admitted, and stressed that the international community’s operations there must succeed because “India cannot imagine for a moment a Taliban takeover of its ‘extended neighbour’.

Earlier, when the conversation moved to Pakistan, Gen Kapoor told Mr Jones the Pakistan Army’s statements regarding the Indian threat on its eastern border were wholly without merit. Even after the 11/26 strikes on Mumbai, he emphasised, India did not make any move of a threatening nature toward Pakistan.

Gen. Kapoor alleged that there were 43 terrorist camps in Pakistan, 22 of which were located in Azad Kashmir. Although the Pakistanis raided some camps in the wake of 11/26, Gen Kapoor averred, some camps had reinitiated operations.

Gen. Kapoor further asserted that infiltration across the Line of Control could not occur “unless there is some kind of assistance and/or degree of support that is institutional in nature”.

He claimed that several incidents of infiltration had occurred in 2009, including that of 40 terrorists in March who were found possessing significant ammunition and other equipment. “India is worried, Gen. Kapoor said, that some part of the huge US military package to Pakistan will find its way to the hands of terrorists targeting India.”

Furthermore, if “we can catch them (the infiltrators), why can’t the Pakistani military?” Gen. Kapoor asked.

“There’s a trust deficit between the US and Pakistan, but there’s also one between India and Pakistan,” he stressed. Mr Jones asked Gen Kapoor how the Pakistanis react when the Indians confront them with these incidents. Gen. Kapoor replied the Pakistanis remain in denial mode, but “fortunately today India’s counter-infiltration posture is stronger than in the past.”

Asked about the percentage of infiltrators that get through, Gen. Kapoor estimated between 15 to 20 per cent, but cited the challenge posed by Indias open border with Nepal.

He asserted that at least 16 terrorists entered India through Nepal in 2009 and then travelled to Kashmir. “Throughout his remarks, Gen. Kapoor stressed that infiltration bids were ‘acts of aggression’,” the US diplomatic cable observed.

“The US-India partnership is very important in this context. The worst thing for the region would be another 11/26-type attack,” Jones stressed, and that “we cannot let the terrorists play us off against each other.”

Another US diplomatic cable sent shortly after the 2008 Mumbai attack says the British High Commission in Islamabad feared an Indian response might include,” at a minimum, increase GOI (government of India) covert activities in Balochistan or even an aerial bombardment of LeT (Lashkar-i-Taiba) camps in Azad Kashmir.

The Guardian newspaper, which was given advance access to the cable, adds that “the British fears of ‘ramped-up’ Indian aid to militant nationalists in Balochistan highlights an assertion found elsewhere in the cables: that British intelligence strongly believes New Delhi is covertly supporting the insurgency in reaction to alleged Pakistani support for LeT.”

A Jan 2007 cable about Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s meeting with US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher and Overseas Private Investment Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Mosbacher also addresses the issue of Afghanistan being used to stir troubles in Balochistan.

The cables noted that in an earlier meeting with then prime minister Shaukat Aziz, President Karzai had said that “the Bugtis were not terrorists and represented nobility in Afghanistan, so it would be hard to turn them over to Pakistan”.

Mr Boucher clarified that it was the grandson that the Pakistanis were after for instigating an uprising. Mr Karzai responded that “fomenting uprising does not make one a terrorist. The real terrorists were (Osama) bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

Afghanistan needs a sign that Pakistan will stop supporting these terrorists.”

Mr Boucher asked Mr Karzai which side should move first and queried whether Afghanistan could take the grandson into custody or strike some political deal. Mr Karzai explained that the Bugtis would blame the United States if Afghanistan turned them in. There would be disgust toward both Afghanistan and the United States.

Mr Boucher asked Mr Karzai if he could assure Pakistan that the Bugtis were not supporting armed struggle and that India was not involved. Karzai said “yes”, though he doubted Pakistan would accept his assurances. “Pakistan would continue to think India is involved. There is a lot of misinformation out there,” Mr Karzai commented. He said he knew Nawab Akbar Bugti, who was highly respected in the US. Mr Karzai explained that Bugti had once tried to call him, but he had refused for the sake of good relations with Pakistan.

“Now he cannot forgive himself for refusing.” Mr Karzai assessed that Pakistan had troubles with many other tribes too, as a result of its trying to divide and conquer and turn the tribes against each other.” Pakistan needed to address the bigger picture, Mr Karzai urged. The cable notes that halfway through the discussion about Bugtis, President Karzai “signalled that the issue was too sensitive and asked that note taking be suspended”