The Indo-Pak border situation has “improved” but suspicions continue to run deeper between the two countries, according to influential US Senator John Kerry, who is a key foreign policy aide to President Barack Obama.
“It (situation along the Indo-Pak border) has improved in the last few months. The tensions over Mumbai have been deep.
And the suspicions run even deeper,” he told PBS news channel.
He was responding to a question if Indians were helping the Obama Administration in its efforts in Pakistan, which is fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in its northwest region bordering Afghanistan.
Kerry said the tension between India and Pakistan is not just related to Mumbai.
“These are people who’ve gone to war three times and who have this sort of quiet war on the front in Kashmir constantly going on,” he said. “So I think that it is very, very important for us to help change that equation.”
“I think there are things we can do and some things we should pay more attention to,” Kerry said.
He said the Pakistanis constantly believe that Indian influence in Afghanistan is too great, that they are being encircled, in a sense.
“There are even people who have believed that we have a plot to somehow secure their nuclear weapons. I mean the level of mistrust and even paranoia in the region is extraordinary. It’s one of the things we have to work through,” Kerry said.
Kerry, the Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations, maintained that he continues to believe that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism in the world.
As long as al-Qaeda and its top operatives Aimen al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden are presumed to be there and significant plots of the terror network coming out of that region, “I hate to use this term, but in a sense the (region is) spiritual centre, the symbolic centre of al-Qaeda, it strengthens their ability to do things in Somalia, Yemen, Germany, Great Britain, America, elsewhere,” he said.
At the same time, Kerry said he is encouraged by the recent steps taken by Pakistani army against terrorists. “The army has taken the risk. (Army chief) Gen (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani, Gen (Shuja) Pasha of the ISI have really moved the ball forward by taking on the Taliban in the Swat Valley and now moving into South Waziristan. I think that it is encouraging,” he said.
“The key here, however, is strengthening the government in Pakistan and refocusing on what they’re going to do in the course of next year,” he said and asserted that there is a need to “keep the heat on the various entities in Pakistan – Lashkar-e-Taiba; the Haqqani network; al-Qaeda; the Quetta Shura -- which has a major impact on what happens in Afghanistan.”
“The pressure has to be kept on all of those entities. And if we do, that will alleviate significantly the difficulties in Afghanistan itself,” Kerry said.