US should respect Pakistan's need for political space, says expert on South Asia

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Washington, Apr 5 : Noted South Asia expert Teresita C Schaffer has said that the US should respect Pakistan's need for political space in the aftermath of a new government coming in place in Islamabad, especially when it was determined to convince its people that it was defending its own interests rather than following a US lead.

Along with Raja Karthikeya Gundu, Teresita writes in the current issue of South Asia Monitor that a fine balancing act was needed between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan to ensure Kabul's smooth transition, peace, and economic growth.

The duo notes that while Pakistan charges Afghanistan's government with turning a blind eye to the arms and drug trade, Afghanistan charges that the Taliban operate out of safe havens in Pakistan.

About India, they write that it has wanted to protect and expand its stake in Afghanistan in order to prevent the consolidation of an anti-India bloc extending westward from Pakistan.

According to them, India took an active part in Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts and opened four consulates in the country, and also expanded its relations with the Central Asian countries to Afghanistan's north and west, a move that has sparked some of the competitive impulses within Pakistan.

They attributed India's active part to New Delhi's closer ties with the former Northern Alliance members of Karzai's government.

"This Indian presence stoked Pakistan's fears. Pakistan charged that the Indian consulates provide cover for Indian intelligence agencies to run covert operations against Pakistan. Pakistan has accused India of operating in collusion with the Afghan Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Afghan intelligence service to fund and arm rebels of the Baloch Liberation Army who are carrying out a separatist insurgency in Pakistan. Pakistan's fears of encirclement by India have been compounded by the Indian Air Force's new facility in Farkhor, Tajikistan," they write further.

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