WASHINGTON, Sept 5: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama accused Pakistan on Friday of using US aid to prepare for war against India.
In an interview with Bill O’Reilly of the Fox News, Mr Obama also indicated that if elected he might allow US ground troops to conduct more raids into Pakistan but would not authorise a “full blown” military attack.
“We are providing them military aid without having enough strings attached. So they’re using the military aid … they’re preparing for a war against India,” he said.
The Democratic candidate caused uproar in Pakistan when he suggested last year that he would authorise US military incursion into Pakistan if he had credible information about Osama bin Laden’s presence in Fata.
Pakistan, however, was not alone in raising alarm over Mr Obama’s statement. Senator Joseph Biden, now Mr Obama’s running mate, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and senior Bush officials also criticised him for advocating a belligerent policy against an ally.
But on Wednesday, the Bush administration authorised a military raid into South Waziristan that killed dozens of people and stirred strong anti-US sentiments in Pakistan.
Mr Obama’s remarks coincide with a bill in the US Senate, piloted by his running mate, to give Pakistan $15 billion in developmental aid over a decade.
In his interview to Fox News, Mr Obama did not discuss the bill but suggested that he would make sure US military aid to Pakistan was targeted against terrorists, rather than India.
“So you’re going to pull it out and let the Islamic fundamentalists take them over?” he was asked.
“No, no, no, no. What we say is, look, we’re going to provide them with additional military support, targeted at terrorists, and we’re going to help build their democracy,” said Mr Obama.
The Bush administration, he said, had “wasted” $10 billion with the Musharraf government without holding them accountable for knocking out “terrorist safe havens in Fata”.
Mr Obama reiterated his previous stance that if he had credible information about Osama bin Laden, “we will target him, and we knock him out”.
“If you send ground troops in, all hell breaks loose,” said Mr O’Reilly.
“Nobody talked about some full-blown invasion of Pakistan,” Mr Obama replied. “But the simple point that I made was we’ve got to put more pressure on Pakistan to do what they need to do.”
“You and I agree completely,” said Mr Obama when told that the war against the militants could not be won unless Pakistan cracked down on the militants hiding in Fata.
“What we can do is stay focussed on Afghanistan and put more pressure on the Pakistanis,” he added.