US should push for better Indo-Pak ties: Mullen

Last Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 13:03

Washington: US should push for a better Indo-Pak ties to reduce some of the long-standing enmity and mistrust between the two countries, a top Pentagon official has said.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that as neighbours, it was in both India and Pakistan`s interests to reduce the tension between them and
strengthen their political, security, and economic ties.

"In terms of our broader engagement with Pakistan and the region, reducing some of the long-standing enmity and mistrust between India and Pakistan would greatly contribute
to our efforts," Mullen said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.

"While we acknowledge the sovereign right of India and Pakistan to pursue their own foreign policies, we must demonstrate our desire for continued and long-term partnership
with each, and offer our help to improve confidence and understanding between them in a manner that builds long-term stability across the wider region of South Asia," Mullen said.

Mullen said as a result of its cooperation with its coalition partners, al Qaeda`s senior leadership in Pakistan is weaker and under greater pressure than at any other time
since being forced out of Afghanistan in late 2001.

"They have suffered the losses of numerous senior leaders and face significant challenges to coordinating operations, maintaining safe havens, and acquiring funding.

Despite this operational progress, al Qaeda retains the intent and capability to attack the United States and other Western countries," he said.

The group`s leaders continue to operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, planning operations and guiding the efforts of al Qaeda networks operating out of the
Arabian Peninsula, Africa, and even Europe, he said.

"We, in turn, remain committed to our deepening and broadening partnerships in the region and to our goal of ultimately defeating al Qaeda and creating the conditions to
prevent their return to Afghanistan and Pakistan," Mullen said.

Though America`s operational efforts are focused on Afghanistan, its diplomatic efforts have increasingly focused on Pakistan, a country critical to US strategy in the region.

"We must overcome years of mistrust and continue to lay the foundation for a true partnership with Pakistan," he said.

"Equally important, we responded to last summer`s devastating floods with timely aid and humanitarian relief. Our assistance eased some of the burden of the Pakistani military and demonstrated our enduring commitment to the Pakistani people," Mullen said.

Mullen said a key component of US partnership is to help enable the Pakistani Military`s counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations.

The series of offensive operations undertaken by the Pakistani Military in the tribal areas expanded dramatically in 2009.

Since then, the Pakistanis have fought bravely and sacrificed much?losing thousands of soldiers in the process.

"We have faithfully supported them in a variety of ways, primarily in the development of the counter-insurgency capabilities of Pakistan`s security forces. This development and the military operations have kept pressure on al Qaeda’s senior leadership and the militant groups threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.

However, he said, insurgent groups such as the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network operate unhindered from sanctuaries in Pakistan, posing a significant threat to NATO
and Afghan forces.

"The aftermath of devastating flooding continues to place a high demand on the military. Our efforts to enable the Pakistani Military depend on several critical programmes, such
as the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund and Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund and the Multi-Year Security Assistance Commitment announced by Secretary Clinton last
fall," he said.

It is also important that through exchange programmes, such as the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme, we establish relationships with the
generation of Pakistani officers with whom we had cut ties, he said.

"In addition, because we so heavily depend on Pakistan as a supply route supporting our efforts in Afghanistan, Coalition Support Funds remain critical to reimbursing the Pakistanis for their assistance," Mullen said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 13:03

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