Commander of the United States Central Command (Centcom) General Joseph Votel on Thursday said India’s policy of ‘diplomatic isolation’ of Pakistan may be a hindrance to improved ties between the two countries.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing on the the United States Central Command and United States Africa Command, Gen Votel said, “India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan hinders any prospects for improved relations.”
“This is especially troubling as a significant conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange, given that both are nuclear powers,” he warned.
Votel claimed the US continues to see “ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India” as “India remains concerned about the lack of action against India-focused militants based in Pakistan”.
“[India] responded militarily to terrorist attacks in India-held territory earlier this year,” he said, adding that “these types of attacks and the potential reactions, increase the likelihood for miscalculation by both countries”.
The need for an increased focus on Pakistan’s eastern border “detracts from its efforts to secure the western border with Afghanistan from incursion by Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.”
“Security along the western border will nevertheless remain a priority for Islamabad, as the Pakistani military seeks to expand border control and improve paramilitary security,” he said.
The Centcom commander claimed that 20 terrorist organisations operate in the Pak-Afghan sub-region. “Seven of the 20 organisations are in Pakistan,” Gen Votel alleged.
“So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan,” he claimed.
The general lauded “promising coordination” between the Pak-Afghan militaries, he said, adding that the US government was encouraged by military operation Radd-ul-Fasaad “in which they set up simultaneous multiple blocking positions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in order to reinforce ANDSF efforts to disrupt Islamic State-Khorasan activities.”
The Pak-US relationship “remains a very important one”, he maintained.
“We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Pakistani military leadership, to include the new Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in the days ahead as we work together in pursuit of shared interests.”