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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2646

US surprised at Pak troop mobilization along India border; War talks tones down

By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune

New Delhi, 29 December 2008, (Asiantribune.com): Pakistan's mobilization of troops along the border with India has surprised Washington as it sees little, if any, evidence that an Indian strike or military action against Pakistan is likely or imminent, reports in Pak and the American media say even as tensions appeared to have thinned considerably Saturday with Pakistan President disclaiming any intent to initiate hostilities with India.

To the discomfort of Pakistan's civilian and army set-ups, a key adviser on terrorism in President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has charged that Islamabad fleeced Washington for billions of dollars in aid while allowing al-Qaeda to regroup in the tribal belt. Pakistan 'double- dealt' the US during the Musharraf regime, said Bruce Riedel, who retired from CIA after 29 years of service in 2006.

The United States sees the relocation of thousands of troops away from the Afghanistan border towards India as 'strictly for American benefit' and as a ploy to get the pressure on Islamabad eased. This reading followed the latest assertion of President Zardari on Saturday that terrorism was a cancer afflicting his country and that his government does not seek war with India.

Only last week the White House assured Pakistan that war could be ruled out and asked it to begin dismantling whatever infrastructure may still exist that can make cross-border terrorism possible. Pakistan, which has been asking for 'evidence' for the Mumbai attacks, has yet to make up its mind as to what course of action it is going to opt for, according to The Daily Times of Lahore.

Bush administration officials have been shuttling to New Delhi and Islamabad following the Mumbai attacks, telling both sides not to let well-founded suspicions that the attacks originated in Pakistan become an excuse for new conflict.

Telephone intercepts demonstrated that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attacks. Phones recovered from the dead terrorists offered proof of regular calls to Pakistan. And Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone gun man to be captured alive, confessed to his Pakistani origins and wrote an appeal to Pakistan government for legal aide.

Shifted to the fortified Arthur Road Jail in South Mumbai, he will face an identification parade in connection with the November 26 terror attacks, a police official said. There are at least 40 eyewitnesses including policeman Arun Jadhav who was travelling in the police jeep that was hijacked by the terrorists, who attacked the financial and entertainment capital of India. Kasab and his associate Ismail Khan had allegedly hijacked the police vehicle but it broke down at Marine Drive. Then, they hijacked a Skoda, driven by S.R. Arasa, who would also be present at the identification parade in the jail premises.

President Asif Ali Zardari told a Pakistan People's Party gathering in Naudero (Sindh province) on Saturday that "non-state actors" were trying to force their agenda on the country. He nevertheless cautioned India against pushing Pakistan too hard to act against such elements. 'We shall take action because we need it, not because you (India) want it'.

Reports from Islamabad said that the army's 14th Division (some 20,000 troops) was being redeployed to Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. All troop leave has also been cancelled.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the prevailing security situation with the chiefs of army, navy and air force.

"War Unlikely"

US think-tank, Stratfor, has downplayed the likelihood of a military conflict between South Asia's nuclear neighbors.

It has opined that New Delhi would continue to use diplomatic tools to persuade Pakistan to catch those responsible for last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai but will not go to war over this issue.

US intelligence officials, while talking to the media, have also dismissed the possibility of yet another India-Pakistan war.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi telephoned Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal met him on Friday.

'There is nothing terrorists would like to see but sowing dissension and creating conflict... This is what we must prevent through collective action', the Saudi minister said after his meeting with Mukherjee. The Indian leader told the Saudi minister to advise Islamabad to put its act together as even the Taliban has nailed Pakistan lies. Mukherjee urged Pakistan not to create 'war hysteria' in response to Indian 'requests' of action against the elements involved in Mumbai terrorist attacks.

At the White House, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters that the Bush administration had seen reports about both sides' actions and was staying in touch with its embassies in South Asia.

Pak 'double-dealt' US

Obama advisor and a former CIA expert on counter terrorism, Bruce Riedel, has told the New York Times that the terrorist network's base in the mountains of Pakistan is America's greatest threat and perhaps biggest problem facing the incoming administration.

He termed as 'savvy campaign' the effort of Pakistan's government under President Pervez Musharraf to fleece Washington for billions of dollars even as it allowed al-Qaeda to regroup in tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. 'We had a partner that was double-dealing us', he told New York Times. 'Anyone can be snookered and double-dealt. But after six years you have to start to figure it out'.

- Asian Tribune -

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