US pullout will lead Afghan militants to target India, says Expert

Kolkata, Nov 4: While the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is opening up strategic space for India, Af-Pak expert Michael Kugelman asserts it will lead to militant groups operating in the region turning their attention back on India.

Speaking at a Global India Foundation organised event on India-US and India-Pakistan relations, Kugelman said as long as the Pakistani defence establishment has ties with militant groups, India-Pakistan relations can never be functional.

Kugelman is South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

"India-Pakistan might become the biggest flashpoint in South Asia after the US troops leave Afghanistan. Many of the militants now fighting in Afghanistan could redirect their attention to India," he said.

"Militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who were originally targeting India but were fighting foreign troops, might now revert their focus on India," Kugelman said.

He also said the recent re-emergence of anti-India militant groups as well as Pakistan's military establishment controlling polices towards India, would further contribute towards deterioration of the bilateral ties.

"There has been re-emergence of several anti-India militants groups including those seen as proxies for the Pakistani security establishment in the last few months."

"The political realities of the two countries make it highly unlikely the two will reconcile. In Pakistan, you have a situation where the military is in control of the policies on India and it is not interested in reconciliation," he noted.

"In India you have a government that is not opposed to engaging with Pakistan but it is more assertive and not willing to sit quietly when there are provocations from Pakistan. There have been provocations from Pakistan and there will be more," Kugelman asserted.

"It's not only the governments, but there are also non-state actors - militant groups that want to harm India and many of them have ties with Pakistani security establishment. So, so long as the Pakistani security establishment does not severe ties with those groups, I don't think the Indo-Pak relations can ever be functional," he observed.

Kugelman, however, said the Afghan pullout will afford US officials more space for strengthening its strategic ties with India and the trajectory of the mutual relationship was moving upwards.

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