Pak needs to drop India centric mindset

Washington: Top US lawmakers and experts have asked Pakistan to come out of its India-centric mindset which they argued is nothing but destructive for it, a day after Islamabad resorted to rhetoric against New Delhi.

"Pakistan`s strategic view and posture vis-a-vis India is, at least in this senator`s judgment, and I think for many people who so talk about it is absurd in this modern context," Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at a Congressional hearing.

"Both nuclear nations, both with much bigger interests that would take them, under good reasoning, to, you know, a very different conclusion, but there just seems to be a kind of, you know, automatic historical, cultural desire to keep focusing on India.

"And it is depleting their ability to focus on their own economy, on their own needs, to learn that they have increased their nuclear arsenal, when, by most people`s judgment, they already had a bigger one than India and an absolutely adequate capacity to deter as well as to destroy within the region simply doesn`t make sense," Kerry said at the first of the series of hearings on Pakistan convened by him.

Resorting to rhetoric, Pakistan army and the government yesterday warned India against any Abbottabad-like "misadventure", saying it would be responded to "very strongly" that could lead to a "terrible catastrophe".

Senator Richard Lugar, the Ranking member, argued that the US should not cut off its relationship with Pakistan.

"Distancing ourselves from Pakistan would be unwise and extremely dangerous. It would weaken our intelligence gathering; limit our ability to prevent conflict between India and Pakistan; further complicate military operations in Afghanistan; end cooperation on finding terrorists; and eliminate engagement with Islamabad on the security of its nuclear weapons," he said.

"When I visit Pakistan, I get the sense that the Pakistani business community, the political classes, get it that they have not future if they`re at constant war mentally with India. I think a lot of people get it now. But the national security establishment, which is a rather important part of Pakistan, still doesn`t get it," said Michael Krepon, co-founder and senior associate South Asia, Henry Stimson Center.

The US ties with India are going to continue to get better, as they should.

"And Pakistan`s national security establishment is going to feel more insecure as a result," he said.

"We can`t convince Pakistan`s military to befriend India. We can work with them to have a more normal relationship with India, especially in the areas of trade and regional development. The biggest challenge facing Pakistan`s national security establishment is to recognize how growing links to extremist groups mortgage that country`s future," he said. "The ISI still doesn`t get this. Outfits like Lashkar- e-Toiba are the leading edge of Pakistan`s national demise. If Pakistan`s military leaders can`t rethink the fundamentals of their anti-India policy and their increased reliance on nuclear weapons, they will never know true security," Krepon said.

Moeed Yusuf, South Asia Adviser Center for Conflict Management, US Institute of Peace, argued that no amount of money is going to change Pakistan’s India mindset.

"Both sides were fairly close to an understanding on a Kashmir solution themselves. I think we dropped the ball by not pushing them hard enough to keep sitting on the table when they pulled back in 2007," he said.

"Terrorism is a serious issue. And I think Pakistan needs to be pushed as much as it can. There`s a joint terrorism mechanism which we need to continue; both sides have agreed. But we want to make sure they don`t pull out. And third, I think equally important and overlooked is the economic relationship," he said.

Observing that Indo-Pak normalisation is critical for Pakistan, but it is not US aid that is going to do the trick, he said.

"It would therefore be best to use America`s economic leverage to ensure better development outcomes, and returns on the counterterrorism front should be linked only to security assistance," Yusuf said.

Senator Ben Cardin said the death of Osama bin Laden presents the US with an opportunity to "reset" its ties with the Pakistani people.

"The death of bin Laden provides us with an opportunity to reach out to the Pakistani people so that they understand that the gravest threat they face is not from the US military, but from terrorists who are using their country as a safe heaven," said Cardin, a member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.

"We need to do a better job of helping Pakistanis understand that it is in their economic and security interests to partner with the United States," he said in a statement.

"In Pakistan, we have an obligation and responsibility to American taxpayers to make sure that US foreign aid is used to ensure our national security. Focusing on the perception of the US by the Pakistani people is very important," he said.

"We need to ensure that our economic and development efforts show that the United States is a partner with the Pakistani people," Cardin said.

However, Congressman Vern Buchanan called for a freeze in foreign aid to Pakistan until its leaders can show they had no knowledge of bin Laden`s whereabouts.

"While the death of bin Laden represents a historic victory in our fight against terrorism, it also raises serious concerns about Pakistan`s commitment and reliability as an ally in our fight against terrorism," said.

"We should freeze all aid to Pakistan until we have assurances that the Pakistani government is not in the business of harboring terrorists," he said.