‘Pakistan trying to ‘stir the pot’ in Kashmir’


‘Pakistan trying to ‘stir the pot’ in Kashmir’
S Rajagopalan
Express News Service

WASHINGTON: Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao categorically told the United States earlier this year that Pakistan’s latest moves indicated that it was trying to “stir the pot” in Kashmir.

At a meeting with visiting US special envoy Richard Holbrooke in January, Rao expressed concern over the ‘sharp increase in unseasonal Pakistan-inspired violence and preparation for violence’. She pointed to incidents of cross-border shelling along the Line of Control and in Punjab, increased infiltration, and transfer of terrorist hardware.

“They are clearly trying to ‘stir the pot’ in Kashmir,” according to a US diplomatic cable of the meeting, leaked by WikiLeaks on Thursday. “In her view, Pakistan is trying to deflect attention to its eastern border from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where the focus ought to be.”

The cable, put out by US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer, said Holbrooke and special adviser Vali Nasr briefed Rao on “the evolving political landscape in Pakistan with a weakening President Zardari and the fluid dynamic between the various centers of power, including COAS Kayani, Prime Minister Gilani, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Choudhary”.

In what clearly would not be music to Pakistani ears, Holbrooke said at the very start of his meeting that he had come to New Delhi ‘with a clear vision of the centrality of India to the strategic landscape in the region’.

Significantly, at one point while dealing with Rao’s suggestion that the US should apply pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting the Afghan Taliban, Holbrooke signalled Washington’s own frustration on this score.

Holbrooke went on to comment that “Pakistan views certain Taliban groups, particularly the Quetta Shura, as an insurance policy to protect its strategic interests in Afghanistan and it is not clear that anyone can easily influence Pakistan to turn on these groups, although the US is exerting tremendous pressure”.

Against this backdrop, Holbrooke cited Washington’s “own difficulties in dealing with the Pakistan government” and suggested that “many people overestimate the US influence in Pakistan”, noted the cable.

The special envoy lauded India’s role in Afghanistan, stating that he favours the Indian assistance programmes. He pointedly stated that he “is not influenced by what he hears in Islamabad”.

Holbrooke, taking on board India’s acute concerns, made it clear that the US would not let the Taliban enter into a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan

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