WASHINGTON: As the American media warn that the Kashmir dispute could lead to a nuclear conflict in South Asia, a senior US general says terrorists continue to stoke tensions between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan too in a meeting with Senator Mitt Romney told the senior lawmaker, who now heads the Senate’s Subcommittee on South Asia, that peace in the region would remain elusive if the Kashmir dispute was not resolved, but General Joseph Votel, who leads the US Central Command (CENTCOM), underscored the need to fight militancy for restoring peace in the region.
“Militants operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to threaten Afghan stability as well as stoke tensions between Pakistan and India,” the general told the US House Committee on Armed Services on Thursday afternoon.
A New York Times (NYT) editorial on Friday, however, alerted the international community that the ongoing conflict between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed neighbours could have dangerous consequences.
“The two countries have crossed into dangerous territory, with India attacking Pakistan and engaging in aerial duels. The next confrontation, or the one after that, could be far more unthinkable,” the NYT wrote.
Going a step ahead, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) warned that India and Pakistan were “flirting with nuclear disaster”.
Peace in South Asia is the most important mutual priority for US and Pakistan, says Gen Votel
An article in the Atlantic magazine suggested that both countries were hiding facts from their people while working quietly to prevent a war.
As the international community expedites efforts to reduce India-Pakistan tensions, Islamabad’s envoy in Washington Asad Majeed Khan has reached out to US lawmakers to explain his country’s positions. “Lasting peace and stability in South Asia would remain elusive as long as India continues to deny the people of Occupied Kashmir their legitimate right to self-determination,” he told Senator Romney. “Pakistan desires to resolve the core regional dispute through dialogue,” he said.
At the congressional hearing, Gen Votel who, as CENTCOM commander, supervises Washington’s military strategy for the Pak-Afghan region, said the US security assistance to Pakistan remained suspended, but some military cooperation activities continued, demonstrating “the importance of military cooperation, despite challenges in the bilateral relationship”.
“Pakistan presents the US with challenges and opportunities in the execution of our South Asia Strategy,” he said. “As a state possessing nuclear weapons that sits at the nexus of Russian, Chinese, Indian, Iranian and US geopolitical interests, Pakistan will always be a country of importance to the US.”
He said the US also wanted to ensure “Pakistan’s equities are acknowledged and addressed in any future agreement” in Afghanistan. “If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan fulfil that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019