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Smaller Pakistan in redrawn South Asia map sparks fear

A redrawn map of South Asia showing a truncated Pakistan has sparked fear among military planners in Islamabad.

A redrawn map of South Asia showing a truncated Pakistan, reduced to an elongated sliver of land, has sparked fear among military planners in Islamabad who think India and Afghanistan are “colluding” to destroy the only nuclear powered-Muslim nation with the US help, a media report said on Sunday.

The map, first circulated as a theoretical exercise in some American neoconservative circles, has fueled a belief among Pakistanis that what the United States really wants is the breakup of their country, the New York Times reported.

That notion, it says, may strike Americans as strange coming from an ally of 50 years but as the incoming Barack Obama administration tries to coax greater cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against militancy, it can hardly be ignored.

Pakistan, says the Times, is upset over the Indo-American civilian nuclear deal as also big investments made by New Delhi in Afghanistan.

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In this context, the paper makes special reference to the Iranian border road which, it says, would ultimately provide access to India to Iranian port of Chabahar, circumventing Pakistan.

Besides, India has offered training for Afghanistan’s military, given assistance for a new Parliament building in Kabul and has re-opened consulates along the border with Pakistan, it adds.

The consulates, the Pakistanis allege, are used by India as cover to lend support to a long-running separatist movement in Baluchistan Province.

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US military commanders, including Gen David H Petraeus, have started to argue forcefully that the solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, where the American war effort looks increasingly uncertain, must involve a wide array of neighbors.

Obama has said much the same. Several times in his campaign, he laid out the crux of his thinking. Reducing tensions between Pakistan and India would allow Islamabad to focus on the real threat the Qaeda and Taliban militants who are tearing at the very fabric of the country, he has argued.

But the Times says such an approach faces sizable obstacles, the biggest being the “conflict” over Kashmir.

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Pakistan’s army and intelligence agencies have long fought a proxy war with India by sponsoring militant groups to terrorize the people in Jammu and Kashmir, it noted.

After the 9/11 attacks, the paper says that Pakistan reined in those militants for a time, but this year the militants have renewed their incursions. Talks between the sides made some progress in recent years but have “petered out.”

Pakistanis, it says, warn that the US should not appear too eager to mediate. First, they say, India has always regarded Kashmir as a bilateral question. India, they note, also faces a general election early next year, an inappropriate moment to push such an explosive issue.

Second, some Pakistanis are concerned about the reliability of the United States as a fair mediator, it adds.

“Given the US record on the Palestinian issue, where the Palestinians had to move 10 times backwards and the Israelis moved the goal posts, the same could happen here,” Zubair Khan, a former commerce minister, is quoted as saying who has watched Kashmir closely.

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If the Obama administration is indeed to convince Pakistanis that militancy, not the Indian Army, presents the gravest threat, it will not be easy, stresses the paper.

The new democratically elected President Asif Ali Zardari has visited the US twice since assuming power three months ago. He has been generous in his praise of the Bush administration. But that stance is criticized at home as fawning and wins him little popularity among a steadfastly anti-American public, the paper noted.

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Among ordinary Pakistanis, many still regard al Qaeda more positively than the United States, it says, citing polls.

Talk shows here often include arguments that the suicide bombings in Pakistan are payback for the Pakistani Army fighting an American war.

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Some commentators suggest that the US is actually financing the Taliban, the paper says, adding the point is to tie down the Pakistani Army, leaving the way open for the Americans to grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Recently, in the officer’s mess in Bajaur, the northern tribal region where the Pakistani Army is tied down fighting the militants, the paper says, one officer offered his own theory: Osama bin Laden did not exist, he told a visiting journalist.

Rather, he was a creation of the Americans, who needed an excuse to invade Afghanistan and encroach on Pakistan, he told a visiting journalist.

The map originally accompanied an article by Ralph Peters published in the US-based Armed Forces Journal in June 2006.

First published on: 23-11-2008 at 01:00:52 pm
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