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Pakistan’s India obsession

Pakistan’s India obsession

Steve Coll’s new magnum opus for the New Yorker on whether it’s possible to negotiate with the Taliban has a wealth of interesting nuggets, but this was the most interesting bit to me (the entire article is not online, alas). Coll discusses a key Pakistani document whose existence was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, and says it shows a singular focus:

In [January and February], high-ranking Pakistani officials met with Holbrooke, Mullen, McChrystal, and General David Petraeus, and, at the invitation of the U.S., submitted a fifty-six-page briefing on its security interests in the region. The paper, according to officials familiar with its contents, reflects one overriding concern: India.

For years, Pakistan has maintained that India has used its Embassy and Consulates in Afghanistan to foster separatist insurgencies inside Pakistan. The Indian government rejects this accusation as paranoia, and, in reality, the official Indian presence in Afghanistan is not formidable; it includes about a hundred Embassy and Consulate employees, plus local hires, a security team, and a construction team that is erecting a new Afghan parliament building. But India has opened two consulates near the Pakistan border, in Jalalabad and Kandahar, which I.S.I. officers believe have been used to aid anti-Pakistan groups. […]

In March, two Pakistani generals-Ashfaq Kayani, the Army chief, and Ahmed Pasha, the head of I.S.I., met with Karzai in Islamabad, and signalled that they could help that they could help cool down the Taliban insurgency. In exchange, Kayani said, the Karzai government must "end" India’s presence in Afghanistan. According to a senior Afghan intelligence official, he said, "There cannot be any type of Indian presence in Afghanistan-any type." (A senior Pakistani official said that the generals’ message was more restrained, demanding only that India not use Afghanistan as a platform for guerrilla war against Pakistan.)

Kayani is certainly a step up from his predecessor Pervez Musharraf, and was recently described to me by one former U.S. official as "the most reality-based Pakistan general" ever to visit Washington, but the lack of strategic thought on display here is quite amazing. Here you’ve got an impoverished, dysfunctional country next door to one of the most dynamic economies on Earth, and it can’t imagine a paradigm in which India is an economic partner and an ally, not a threat. Convincing Pakistan to set aside its traditional paranoia about its larger, more successful neighbor has got to be one of the top priorities of U.S. foreign policy for years to come.