Pakistan, India Vital Partners in U.S. Approach to Combating Militants
United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Pakistan on January 21 to discuss anti-militant operations in South Asia. Gates cautioned that militant groups based in South Asia may attempt to destabilize the region in order to trigger a war between Pakistan and India. Speaking in New Delhi the previous day, Gates stated that militants are trying “to destabilize not just Afghanistan, not just Pakistan, but potentially the whole region by provoking a conflict perhaps between India and Pakistan through some provocative act.” The potential for conflict in the region is high–India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947.
Despite the threat that insurgents in South Asia pose, Athar Abbas, Pakistan’s army spokesperson, has stated that the Pakistani military has no new anti-militant operations planned for the coming year. During 2009, the Pakistani army commenced a number of significant counterterrorism operations in the Swat region and in South Waziristan. Some observers believe that Pakistan’s failure to recommit may be in response to the continued presence of U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan near the Afghanistan border or perhaps in response to retaliatory suicide bombings that have claimed hundreds of lives. Maj. Gen. Abbas, the head of public relations for the Pakistan army, has simply stated that “[t]he Pakistan army is overstretched and it is not in a position to open any new fronts. Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan and Swat.”