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No advantage for India in US-Pakistan troubles: Experts

AFP

NEW DELHI STRAINED US-Pakistan ties following the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden are being seen in India as an opportunity to ramp up pressure on Islamabad over militant groups operating on Pakistani soil.

But analysts say India’s leverage remains strictly limited as long as the US priority in South Asia remains the conflict in Afghanistan — for which Washington’s dependence on Pakistan shows no short-term sign of waning.

In the immediate aftermath of bin Laden’s death, India seized on the fact that the Al Qaeda leader had been hiding barely two hours’ drive from Islamabad as proof of the Pakistani establishment’s collusion with outlawed militants.

“This fact underlines our concern that terrorists belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in Pakistan,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said.

Foreign Minister SM Krishna joined in, calling on world powers to help eliminate “safe havens that have been provided to terrorists in our own neighbourhood.” There was a triumphant “we told you so” tone to the comments from India which feels the international community — the United States in particular — has paid little more than lip service to its repeated accusations that Pakistan nurtures militant groups on its soil.

There were nods of approval in New Delhi as some US lawmakers accused Pakistan of playing a double game and demanded answers from Islamabad over how bin Laden could have stayed where he was undetected for so long.

The hope is that Washington will now take a tougher line with Pakistan and push Islamabad to crack down on militant outfits, especially the Lashkar-e- Taiba (LeT), which India says was behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

However, most analysts believe that hope will go unrealised because of the US reliance on Pakistani cooperation in its pursuit of Islamist extremists and the supply of 100,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Neighbouring Pakistan is crucial for Washington’s efforts in Afghanistan both logistically and in the battle against Taliban fighters who shelter in the border region.

“The US isn’t going to pull out the heavy diplomatic guns with Pakistan any time soon, no matter how high eyebrows may have been raised over bin Laden’s hiding place,” said Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the RUSI defence and security thinktank in London.

“And India doesn’t really have the leverage to make the US do that.

What can India threaten? ‘Press down on the LeT or else’— what?” US-India ties have warmed in recent years and Washington wants a longterm strategic relationship with New Delhi, but President Barack Obama’s administration is not seen as giving India the same importance as that of his predecessor George W Bush.

For all the commercial incentives offered by India’s fast-growing economy, the United States cannot afford to alienate Pakistan and lose its help with the Afghan conflict.

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