Mistrust, Afghan insecurity loom over Indo-Pak talks
By Annie Banerji
As India and Pakistan begin diplomatic talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, Pew Research Centre published a survey this week that shows Pakistanis are strongly critical of India and the United States as well.
Even though there has been a slew of attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani targets since Osama bin Laden’s killing in May, the Pew Research publication illustrates that three in four Pakistanis find India a greater threat than extremist groups.
In similar fashion, 65 percent of Indians expressed an unfavourable view of Pakistan, seeing it as a bigger threat than the LeT, an active militant Islamic organisation operating mainly from Pakistan and Maoist militants operating in India.
Moreover, a majority of Pakistanis disapproved of the U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound, located 35 miles from Islamabad. Only 12 percent expressed a positive view of the U.S. and most Pakistanis view the U.S. as an enemy, consider it a potential military threat and oppose American-led anti-terrorism efforts.
In the midst of these unflattering opinions that India and Pakistan share of each other, U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next summer comes to the foreground as Washington’s expectation is to see India and Pakistan jointly fill its shoes. However, India feels it will be left to babysit a dangerous neighbourhood riddled with militancy.
Though both countries wish to have improved relations, Pakistan worries about India’s influence in Afghanistan as it would have to defend both its eastern and western borders from what it sees as its existential threat. In the same way, New Delhi fears the possibility of its nuclear-armed neighbour and the Taliban filling the vacuum left by the U.S. troops.
With a list of unsettled matters and an existing mutual apprehension between the rivals, time will only tell whether the two days of talks will augur well and pave a path of peaceful relations.