Thursday, April 30, 2009

General Petraeus Warns Fragile Indo-Pakistani Relations Ruin the Afghan War

General David Petraeus expressed his concern that the Pakistan government gives defense priority to strategic rivalry with India, instead of fighting against insurgents in Afghanistan, at a panel in the House on April 24 (“Petraeus: Taliban, not India, top Pakistan issue”; AP; April 25, 2009). Petraeus warns that Al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan pose "an ever more serious threat to Pakistan's very existence." He stresses that Pakistani military forces and intelligence agency must be well-trained to fight against insurgents, and demanded US Congress to fund counter-terrorist trainings and operations in Pakistan (“Petraeus Calls on Pakistan to Redirect Military Focus”; Washington Post; April 25, 2009).

Since the independence from the British Raj, the relationship between Pakistan and India has been strained. When both countries tested nuclear bombs in the late 1990s, tensions in the Indian Subcontinent grew dramatically. The Clinton administration tried to ease the rivalry, but failed to build confidence between both countries.

It appeared that the Bush administration had contributed to substantially improved relations between India and Pakistan, as the United States led initiatives against global terrorism and the Coalition attacked Islamic radicals in Afghanistan. However, Indo-Pakistani relations have become chilled since the terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26 last year. India criticizes possible ties between those terrorists and the Pakistani government.

As if symbolizing turbulent relations between Pakistan and India, both Indian and Pakistani newspaper reports that General Patraeus said India must be included to the portfolio of Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan (“Holbrooke’s Af-Pak portfolio includes India: Gen Petraeus”; Indian Express; April 26, 2009 and “Is India a concern for US Af-Pak envoy?”; Daily Times; April 27, 2009).

Apoorva Shah, Research Assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, argues that lenient terrorist policy in Pakistan is not the only issue of anxiety for India. The Mumbai attack has undermined the notion of India as a multicultural and democratic nation state. The Indian government is facing an imminent domestic security threats that would damage unification and stability of this country (“The ‘Idea of India’ after Mumbai”; AEI Asian Outlook; May 2009). It is understandable why India reacted so vehemently to Pakistan. But a positive Bush legacy in the Subcontinent must not be ruined.

As the Afghan War is an issue of high priority for the Obama administration, security in South Asia has become increasingly important than ever. The Indo-Pakistani relationship is a must watch issue now, and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke faces such a critical problem while he tackles the matter of peace and stability in Afghanistan, the War on Terror, and non-proliferation in this region.