Indo-Pak peace talks key to reducing strategic tensions


* Head of US Central Command urges for ‘substantial and sustained’ commitment to Pakistan’s security, development

WASHINGTON: The continuation of peace talks between Pakistan and India is key to reduce strategic tensions, Gen David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, said on Wednesday.

The general said that any major escalation in tensions on Islamabad’s eastern border could adversely affect gains made in the country’s northwest and Tribal Areas.

Testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Petraeus urged “substantial, sustained” commitment to Pakistan’s security and development as he highlighted the efficacy of the South Asian ally’s anti-militancy actions in an appearance on the Capitol Hill.

Petraeus cited Pakistan’s “impressive” counterinsurgency operations in Swat and South Waziristan.

“And they have carried out good operations in some other areas of the FATA as well, including in Bajaur recently. These latter operations have been carefully coordinated with ISAF forces in Regional Command East, and that coordination enabled RC East elements to engage extremists who fled Pakistani operations and crossed the Durand Line into Afghanistan,” he informed lawmakers.

Tough losses: The Pakistani forces and people have suffered tough losses during the course of these campaigns, he said. “We recognise the need for considerable assistance to Islamabad as they continue their operations, and we will continue to work with Congress in seeking ways to support Pakistan’s military,” the general said.

He referred to economic assistance under the Kerry-Lugar bill and security aid and stressing the need for trusting and long-term partnership said, “It is therefore important that we provide a sustained, substantial commitment, and that is what we’re endeavouring to do with your support.”

He also referred to the coalition support funding, foreign military financing, the Pakistani counter-insurgency fund and other forms of security assistance, saying these provide further critical assistance for the country’s security forces.

“Together this funding and our assistance demonstrate America’s desire to strengthen this important strategic partnership and help our Pakistani colleagues,” he said.

Weighing in on security efforts in the regional perspective, Petraeus said in his prepared statement that the US was working to see an improvement in Pakistan-India relations and believed that both South Asian nuclear neighbours should continue peace talks to reduce strategic tensions.

He noted that “Indo-Pakistani tensions have eased since 2008”, when a comprehensive peace process between the two countries derailed in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

However, Petraeus feared tensions between the two major regional countries could “easily re-ignite”, particularly in the event of another significant terrorist attack in India.

“A major escalation in these tensions would almost certainly result in the immediate redeployment to the east of Pakistani forces currently deployed to confront militants in the West, risking forfeiture of gains in FATA and the NWFP,” he stated in a prepared statement provided at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This suggests a need for India and Pakistan to continue discussions begun on February 25 in order to reduce the strategic tension and the risk of miscalculation between these nuclear states,” Petraeus added.


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