New Delhi mindful of Islamabad’s concerns: Washington
WASHINGTON, Nov 10: India is mindful of Pakistan’s sensitivities in Afghanistan and has chosen not to take a major role in training Afghan forces, says a senior US defence official.
“I think India has actually been very careful, very mindful of the fact that Pakistan is sensitive to the types of assistance it provides to the Afghans,” said Undersecretary of Defence Michele Flournoy.
“It has consciously chosen not to take a major role, for example, in the training and development of the security forces,” said Ms Flournoy, who looks after the policy-making process at the Pentagon. “They (only) have a small police training programme for female police officers in India.”
A transcript released by the Pentagon on Thursday quoted her as saying that India decided to “to stay away from that effort in order not to exacerbate Pakistan’s concerns”.
Last week, Afghanistan and Pakistan reached an agreement in Istanbul which allows Islamabad to train Afghan troops. Officials in Washington said that they encouraged the two neighbours reach this understanding.
In an interview to the US Council on Foreign Relations, Ms Flournoy also linked improvement of relations between India and Pakistan to US success in Afghanistan. She noted with satisfaction that India and Pakistan were making efforts to restart their dialogue in a ‘serious way’ and that the United States was ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the success of this process.
“I see some early efforts on the part of both officials in India and Pakistan to restart their dialogue in a serious way to get back to discussing confidence-building measures,” she said. “We are cautiously optimistic about that process.”
Asked if she believed that mid-level military officials in Pakistan also wanted friendly relations with India, she said: “I have not personally seen the impetus for that coming from the ranks of the military at this point.”
Ms Flournoy, however, attributed this lack of information to a US decision to sever its ties to the Pakistani military in the 1990s.
“Because of the cut-off of our relationship in a certain period we lost visibility into them. And that is the generation that’s now rising into this sort of one-star, two-star ranks. And so it’s hard for us to have a good feel for that.”
But she insisted that “at the highest levels, on the civilian side in particular but also some in the military, there is an effort to reopen the discussions with India. I think they realise there’s value in trying to make some progress to rebuild some confidence.”
At the State Department, spokesman Mark Toner said the US believed that Pakistan was well aware of the range of potential threats to its nuclear arsenal and was giving ‘very high priority’ to securing its nuclear weapons and materials effectively.
“We continue to have confidence in the Pakistan government that they both understand the threat to their nuclear arsenal — the varied threats to the nuclear arsenal, and that they’re taking appropriate steps to safeguard them,” he told reporters.
He was commenting on a US media report that Pakistan was moving around its nuclear weapons in delivery vans, making them vulnerable to theft and terrorist attacks. “We continue to have confidence…that they’re taking appropriate steps,” the spokesman said.
Pakistan has already rejected such reports as ‘pure fiction’.