Why Pakistanis see India bigger threat than Qaeda?

About 53 percent of Pakistanis view India as a bigger threat, says a poll.

Islamabad: India`s stand after the 26/11 Mumbai attack and the continued trust deficit are reasons Pakistanis cite for considering their neighbour a bigger threat than the Taliban and al Qaeda. However, most rational Pakistanis support better relations and dialogue while the younger generation say they have moved beyond the hostility of the partition generation.

These views were expressed by the politicians, academicians and members of the general public while talking to a news agency about the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey. The Washington think-tank`s findings last week suggested that about 53 percent of Pakistanis viewed India as a bigger threat to their country compared to 23 percent naming the Taliban and three percent the al Qaeda.

The same survey, however, also revealed that despite the perceived threats and a history of tense relations between the two countries, almost 72 percent of the respondents wanted relations with India to improve and about three-quarters of them supported resumption of trade links and bilateral dialogue between them.

Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad, a former federal information minister, said that good relations with India were always believed to be on the tip of a cliff.

"If India had not tried to push Pakistan to the wall and isolate it globally, the perceptions would have been different," Ahmad said.

The preferential treatment meted out by the US administration to India had also led to this trust deficit and the feeling that both were perhaps conniving against Pakistan, he claimed.

Hasan Askari, a defence analyst, said that the antagonistic approach towards each other was part of the psyche of the general public in both India and Pakistan. This was also evident from the fact that the political trends in Pakistan were currently aligned towards the "right-wing" because of the policies pursued by United States, he said.

He emphasised that such surveys are hardly a true measure of opinion of the general public and only reflect a trend which keeps fluctuating over a certain period of time and happenings.

"The sharp decline in the percentage of Pakistanis who considered the Taliban as a threat in 2010 as compared to those in 2009 is a case in point," he said, adding that the opinions at any given time can vary when circumstances change.

Haider Ali Khan, a civil engineer, said such findings were due to the trust deficit between the two countries.

"When the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) kicks out Jaswant Singh just for appreciating Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his book, the message is heard across the border loud and clear," he argued, adding that India had failed to show enough commitment to bridging the lack of trust.

He felt it would be unfair on the part of India to remain a reluctant neighbour and expect Pakistan to go the extra mile for good relations.

Sara Mustafa, a fine arts student, dismissed the findings of the report and expressed her belief that the people of her generation had moved past the hostility of previous generations.

"I have been to India a couple of times and have hosted my Indian friends here in Pakistan," she said, stressing that she had not witnessed any hatred for each other in such interactions.

"Cricket and cultural exchanges are the best tools to bring the two countries together," Mustafa said.

A journalist underlined the overwhelming support for good relations and urged India to take a positive approach.

"The fact that most Pakistanis still want improved relations with India and want bilateral trade and other activities to open should be enough reason for optimism," said Babar Dogar, a senior correspondent of The Daily News.

"If the Indian government stops making accusations and uses the platform of bilateral dialogue effectively with a futuristic mindset, all such differences can be resolved," he said.

The survey, conducted between April 13 and 28 on a sample of 2,000 people, had also found the US remains deeply disliked, with 59 percent of people saying they consider Washington an enemy. Still, two-thirds say they would like to see better relations with the US.


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