Islamabad, Nov 23 : A redrawn map of South Asia, first circulated as a theoretical exercise in some American neoconservative circles, shows Pakistan truncated, reduced to an elongated sliver of land with the big bulk of India to the east, and an enlarged Afghanistan to the west.
It is learnt to have sent jitters down the spine of the Pakistani elites. It has fueled a belief among Pakistanis, including members of the armed forces, that what the US really wants is the breakup of Pakistan, the only Muslim country with nuclear arms, said an article in the New York Times.
"One of the biggest fears of the Pakistani military planners is the collaboration between India and Afghanistan to destroy Pakistan. Some people feel the United States is colluding in this," the paper quoted a senior Pakistani government official as saying.
Pakistan is a collection of just four provinces, which often seem to have little in common. Virtually every one of its borders, drawn almost arbitrarily in the last gasps of the British Empire, is disputed with its neighbours, not least Pakistan's bitter and much larger rival, India.
These facts and the insecurities that flow from them inform many of Pakistan's disagreements with the US, including differences over the need to rein in militancy in the form of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies have long fought a proxy war with India by sponsoring militant groups to terrorize the Indian-administered part of the territory. After the 9/11 attacks, 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 warn that the US should not appear too eager to mediate. First, they caution, 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 US as a fair mediator. "Given the United States' 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," said Zubair Khan, a former commerce minister who has watched Kashmir closely.
Khan added that it was discouraging to see that the US ignored the importance of the huge nonviolent protests by Muslims in Kashmir against Indian rule this summer. "Anywhere else, and they would have been hailed as an Orange Revolution," he said, referring to the wave of protests that led to a change in the Ukrainian government in 2004.
Such distrust has been exacerbated by what Pakistanis see as the Bush administration's tilt toward India. Exhibit A for the Pakistanis is India's nuclear deal with the US, which allows India to engage in nuclear trade even though it never joined the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Pakistan, with its recent history of spreading nuclear technology, received no comparable bargain. The nuclear deal was devised in Washington to position India as a strategic counterbalance to China. That is how it is seen in Pakistan, too, but with no enthusiasm. "The US has changed the whole nuclear order by this deal, and in doing so is containing China, the only friend Pakistan has in the region," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani Army general.
Further, Pakistan is upset about the advances India is making in Afghanistan, with no checks from the US, Masood said. India has recently made big investments in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has been competing for influence.
These include a road to the Iranian border that will eventually give India access to the Iranian port of Chabahar, circumventing Pakistan. Besides, India has also 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.