Washington, July 31: As a new US defence department report suggested that the "zero option" in Afghanistan - a complete pullout of US troops - is unrealistic, a Pentagon official said India and Pakistan would play significant roles there in future.
"I think both Pakistan and India will play and ought to play very important, significant roles going forward in Afghanistan," Peter Lavoy, the Pentagon's top policy official on Afghanistan said Tuesday in response to a question.
"Those countries and other immediate and nearby neighbours of Afghanistan are affected by the security conditions in Afghanistan," he said briefing reporters on Pentagon's twice-a-year report to Congress on "Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan."
"Borders, as you know, are very porous in this part of the world. They're affected by it, and they in turn affect security and political developments inside Afghanistan," said Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defence for Asia Pacific security affairs.
The report addresses the effect US and NATO troops pulling back from patrolling and giving most of that responsibility to Afghan forces has had.
Lavoy said there will need to be some level of US involvement in the country even after the 2014 withdrawal and the Pentagon has developed a number of plans for that based on the current situation on the ground.
He did not give a recommendation for a specific number troops or funding amount that will be needed, but did call the "zero option," where the United States would pull out completely, unrealistic.
"In none of these cases have we developed an option that is zero," Lavoy said.
Turning to the likely roles of India and Pakistan in a post-2014 scenario, he said: "This is a very interdependent region, if you will, from that point of view.
"And what you have today is a growing sense.. of insecurity throughout the region, in central Asia, even north of there, Russia and other places in China, but most acutely in Pakistan and India."
"There's a fear in India that there will be what is called as a surplus terrorism. After there is some stability in Afghanistan, where will these terrorists go? Will they target India?" Lavoy acknowledged.
But suggesting that "They have the exact same fears in Pakistan," he said: "They're concerned that if there is further instability in Afghanistan, this could heighten the insurgency, be motivational or provide some safe haven for insurgents to come over into Pakistan."
"So everyone in the region has these concerns," Lavoy said suggesting a harmonising of the policies of the "countries in the region to try to achieve a common end purpose, a common situation of peace and stability in Afghanistan and, more broadly, throughout the region."
In response to another question, the official said "it's really for the countries in the region to manage their own relationships" and the US viewed "the situation in Kashmir as a bilateral situation for India and Pakistan to sort out."
It was "very, very regrettable" that "there has been violence along the line of control in Kashmir for many years, for many decades now," he said.
But since the election of a new government in Pakistan headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, "there have been overtures made by the Pakistanis to the Indians and vice versa to try to normalise the situation economically
and reach some kind of political understanding," Lavoy noted.
"And I know we in the US government fully support those efforts," he added.