Washington, June 16 : A top US expert on South Asia, who in the past had a diplomatic stint in Islamabad, has said that military actions alone could not deal with the challenges posed by terrorism along the Pak-Afghan border and rooting out the problem in this manner would take years, hence there was a need for a "strategic plan having a particular thrust on economic development".
The expert said that the US must tread cautiously with Pakistan at this delicate juncture, and added that last week's airstrike incident in a Pakistani border area "could strain ties'.
She advised the US administration to move expeditiously with an economic development plan for the Tribal Areas in Pakistan.
Making policy recommendations to the US Congress, former US State Department adviser Lisa Curtis said: "It will require a strategic and forward-looking approach that also relies heavily on economic development and investment in the region."
She further said that in addition to implementing large-scale economic development programmes in the Federally Administrated Tribal areas (FATA), the US should move forward expeditiously on the Reconstruction Opportunity Zone (ROZ) legislation.
The ROZs are meant to encourage investment in and around the underdeveloped Tribal Areas by permitting certain products produced there to enter the US duty-free. Delays in moving ahead with this initiative in the US are undermining the broader US objective of winning hearts and minds through social uplift programmes, the expert, who recently visited Pakistan, said.
Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, also stressed the importance of supporting efforts to bring political reform to FATA, including incorporating the region into mainstream Pakistan to increase government authority in the area. Pakistan, she said, should also stay on the offensive against terrorists.