No change seen in Pakistan's view of India threat

Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:45am EDT

* Pakistan army seen unlikely to review its stance on India

* No attack from India expected, but capability remains

* Progress on political disputes, Kashmir, needed first

By Myra MacDonald

ISLAMABAD, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The Pakistan army is unlikely to change its assessment of the threat from India despite heavy demands on its troops to provide flood relief while also fighting Islamist militants, a senior security official said.

The Wall Street Journal said this month Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had decided -- for the first time in the country's history -- that Islamist militants had overtaken India as the greatest threat to national security.

But the security official suggested this was a misinterpretation of the stance of the Pakistan army, which views the threat from militants and India in very different ways, rather than comparing them against each other.

"These are two mutually exclusive threats. The magnitude, the type, is quite different. One is an internal threat which is insidious, difficult to quantify. It is a clear and present danger. This is a very serious threat," he said. "The other is a conventional threat. What has India done, politically and militarily, for this threat to have been reduced?"

Another official said the threat from India had if anything increased into both a conventional and unconventional threat, as it used its presence in Afghanistan to support those fighting against the Pakistani state in its western border regions.

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India denies accusations by Islamabad that it backs separatists in Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan, saying it is interested only in promoting Afghan development. With flooding which has uprooted some 6 million people further destabilising a country already battling militants, the WSJ report raised the possibility the Pakistan army might revise its assessment of the threat from its much bigger neighbour.

It keeps the bulk of its troops on the Indian border.

INDIAN FLOOD RELIEF

India has promised Pakistan $5 million in flood relief and analysts there see no chance of it exploiting its nuclear rival's current vulnerability by raising tensions on the border.

"At this time no one is thinking of anything other than how to help them get over the suffering and the damage," said retired Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

"The Pakistanis should feel free to pull out their troops for flood relief as and when they want. The Indian Army obviously cannot give any written guarantees but our DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) could reassure his counterpart that we have no intention of attacking them at such a time."

The DGMO's of the two countries talk by phone once a week, mainly to clear up misunderstandings over any ceasefire violations on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir.

But the security official said that Pakistan's military deployment was based on its assessment of India's potential offensive strength. "The configuration of any defence force is based on enemy's capabilities and not intentions," he said.

Pakistan has taken more casualties in its battle with Islamist militants than in all its wars against India combined -- the two countries have fought three full-scale wars since independence in 1947 along with other smaller conflicts.

Yet for Pakistan to drop its guard against India would require progress on political disputes, including over Kashmir, officials say.

India broke off a peace process with Pakistan after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants and despite several attempts the two countries have been unable to get their talks back on track again.

And even while Pakistan fights militants on its western border with Afghanistan, it remains wary of sudden Indian retaliation should there be another Mumbai-style attack on India.

"This enforced attention to the western border has made the Pakistan army reassess its priorities," said western military analyst Brian Cloughley, an expert on the Pakistan army.

"But it still does not wish to drop its guard to the east, especially as the there is still the threat of a swift and dramatic attack if a terrorist outrage in India is determined by India to have been planned in Pakistan."

Pakistan has said it cannot guarantee there will be no more attacks on India, arguing that it too is a victim of bombings. (Editing by Chris Allbritton and Sanjeev Miglani) (myra.macdonald.thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: myra.macdonald.reuters.com@reuters.net))



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