Pak should shift focus to western border: Gates
Last Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2010, 16:37
  
Islamabad: The US has asked Pakistan to shift its greater security role to its western border with Afghanistan as it is there that it faces an "existential threat" rather than on the frontier with India.

Visiting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said Pakistan should commit itself to a greater role in its western border. He made these remarks during an interview with state-run Pakistan Television while responding to questions on why the US believes Islamabad should commit itself to a greater role on its western borders.

"Well, I think...because it faces, in its own way, an existential threat on its western border," Gates said. Asked if there was no threat to Pakistan on the eastern border with India, Gates replied: "I said we understood Pakistan's legitimate concerns. It also has an existential threat on its western border, and that is the more immediate threat.”

"That is the threat where people have put suicide bombers in Pakistan cities, have killed Pakistani military officers and their families.”

“This is the threat that faces Pakistan most immediately, and that's the reason why I think, very intelligently, Pakistani leadership has taken action to prevent those kind of attacks from happening," he said.

Over the past few months, the US has been nudging Pakistan to shift troops from the Indian border to its western frontier so that they can take on Taliban militants who attack foreign forces in Afghanistan.

However, Pakistan has been reluctant to reduce troop deployments along the Indian border, citing the strained relations between the two countries.

Gates, who is visiting Islamabad for a strategic dialogue on the link between security in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also described as "exaggerated" Pakistan’s concerns about the Indian presence in Afghanistan.

Noting that India is one of 44 countries providing development assistance to Afghanistan, he said: "I think at this stage to worry about India having predominant influence is exaggerated, as far as I'm concerned." Responding to a question about Pakistan's concerns about the US backing a larger role for India in Afghanistan, Gates said: "What I have welcomed and what most nations welcome is the economic and development assistance that India has provided to Afghanistan.”

“I think what's important is that over the long term (that) both India and Pakistan have a strong relationship with Afghanistan."

The US, he said, pays "attention to Pakistan's reservations, and when I was in India, I did not ask them for military trainers and military units".

Gates reiterated that he believed India "was restrained in its response" after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

"But no country, including the US, is going to stand idly by if it's being attacked by somebody," he said.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010, 16:37


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