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Pakistan Sends More Troops To Indian Border

Posted by on March 27th, 2010

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By Steve Hynd

Just days after Hillary Clinton's giggling presser with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan is already walking back any real co-operation with American interests – and, as always, Pakistani fears of India are the prime motive. The Financial Times eports:

Pakistan has sent extra troops to its border with India, saying rising tensions with its neighbour prevent it from expanding its military campaign against Taliban militants on its western border.

The move came as Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, held talks with Pakistan’s military leadership in Washington about how to exert more pressure on Taliban forces fighting US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

…Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said recent arrests of Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, were motivated by the desire to seize control of negotiations between Kabul and the international community and the Taliban.

He said Pakistan was “motivated by the conviction that India, not the Afghan Taliban, is the main enemy to be neutralised in the Afghan endgame”.

Khurshid Kasuri, a former Pakistani foreign minister, said Islamabad would continue to prioritise its eastern border to protect itself against a rival with which it had fought “three major wars and two minor ones”.

“We have enough problems of our own on our eastern border,” said Mr Kasuri. “We are concerned about India. Resolve the problems with India and then [our security orientation] could change.”

It continues to amaze me that senior leaders in both the White House and Pentagon appear to be hypnotised by General Kayan's Jedi mind tricks. Pakistan is not now and never will be a natural ally of the United States; it is already a satellite state of China's, with deep economic and military ties that bind it to its larger neighbour as well as a mutual enemy in India. Pakistan has clearly stated that it wishes "strategic depth" in Afghanistan – which translated means a place to retreat to if a conflict with India starts. An American military presence in Afghanistan would hardly allow that so whatever they say publicly the Pakistani military do not want a long-term American military presence across their Western border. These simple truths means that anything Pakistan may offer the U.S. will be short-lived and probably more about style than substance.

But give the Pakistani military an inch and it will try to take a mile. Having promised more aid and more military equipment – equipment which is mostly going to be aimed at India, like the F-16s being fitted with beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and maritime patrol planes fitted with harpoon missiles the U.S. keeps handing out like candy – it now wants the U.S. to tell India to be sure not to retaliate when Pakistan-based and ISI-funded terrorists cross the border to attack, at the same time saying that Indian threats are why it cannot rein in those state-sponsored terrorists. Their audacity would be staggering if it wasn't par for the course.

America's natural ally in the region is India, since both are faced with the challenge of preserving and extending their status in an economic and military race with China. But America's continual pandering to Pakistan – albeit for the very laudable short term goal of exiting Afghanistan – has left India isolated and facing some very tough choices. India can overcome that isolation on its own merit, but I doubt it will be willing to forgive and forget American short-termism when it does so.

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