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Vivek Kumar Nag asked: America supports Pakistan financially and militarily on the one hand, and stands together with India on the other. What exactly is the American position on Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in India?

Alok Deb replies: The biggest asset that Pakistan possesses is its location - a bridge towards West Asia through Iran, towards Central Asia and Russia through Afghanistan, and towards China through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Also, it shares a land border with India and has direct access to the waters of the Indian Ocean. These regions have traditionally been vital to Western strategic interests. Though its potential to link the economies of these regions remains mostly unrealised, its strategic location gives it the power to either support friendly regimes and maintain a climate of security or conversely, generate great instability all around. This was recognised immediately after Partition, when the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) drew Pakistan, and some West Asian nations and Turkey into the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) to contain the Soviet Union and further their interests. Subsequently, the Western aim of forcing the Soviets out of Afghanistan enhanced Pakistan's importance manifold. Despite its active role in sponsoring terrorism and failure as a nation in many spheres, Pakistan continues to retain importance in the eyes of the world mainly due to its geo-strategic location and the potential therein.

Today, American relations with Russia and China continue to oscillate, as do its relations with Iran. The US is looking at additional inroads into Central Asia. It thus continues to cultivate Pakistan, while ensuring some leverages over its activities, by retaining the option to cut off aid should Pakistan not provide more concrete evidence of not supporting terrorism. At the same time, the US is cooperating with India to unearth evidence over the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and has denounced various terrorist attacks in India without attributing them to Pakistan. American attitude towards Pakistan has gradually hardened since 9/11. Should concrete evidence of Pakistan governmental involvement in terrorism against India be placed before the world, after scrutiny in a court of law, the US would have to take a much harsher line on Pakistan than it does at present. And this is possible - one only has to recall the American threat to 'bomb Pakistan back to the stone age' if it did not cooperate on fighting terror in Afghanistan post 9/11.

Posted on December 26, 2016

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