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Washington Closely Monitoring Rising Tensions Between Nuclear Rivals

  • Kokab Farshori

The United States is closely watching escalating tensions between Pakistan and India. While U.S. focus in the region is on the American troop drawdown in neighboring Afghanistan, analysts say Washington is keeping a close eye on Indo-Pakistani relations.

The latest tensions began last week, when India accused Pakistan of attacking and killing five of its troops in the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan denied the allegation. The escalation in tension between the two nuclear rivals is a cause of concern not just for the region, but also for the United States, according to Robert Hathaway of the Wilson Center.

"Obviously, when any time two nuclear-armed rivals experience a rise in tensions, that’s worrisome in and of itself. In addition, the U.S. is determined to withdraw from Afghanistan with as much dignity and as good an order as possible. So, turmoil in the region also has an impact on American plans to withdraw from Afghanistan," said Hathaway.

Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. has sought Pakistan’s cooperation. And analysts believe such cooperation will be equally important in the drawdown.

"Washington would very much like to see Pakistani troops on the Pakistani-Afghan border, preventing the Jihadis and the other extremist groups from crossing their safe haven sanctuaries in Pakistan into Afghanistan and attacking NATO troops. If there’s a crisis in Kashmir, Pakistan is far more likely to move its forces from its western border to its eastern border and that will clearly have an impact on the U.S. plans for withdrawal from Afghanistan," said Hathaway.

Pakistan says it is committed to crushing the elements causing instability in the region. Experts like Lisa Curtis, at Washington's Heritage Foundation, say the current India-Pakistan tensions should be taken into consideration as the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan.

"The point some of us are trying to make is that, if the U.S. withdraws too quickly, without paying attention to conditions on the ground, without ensuring that Afghan security forces are able to hold their own against the Taliban, that this indeed will fuel the cycle of violence, and that will raise tensions between India and Pakistan," said Curtis.

Since the United States has good relations with both India and Pakistan, experts believe it should play a role in helping de-escalate the tensions between the two countries.

"The U.S. should be trying to reduce the tensions between the two countries. The U.S. has a lot of experience in trying to ensure that the conflict does not escalate between India and Pakistan. The U.S. has good relationships with both countries. So, it can do this. What it can’t do is to play a mediating role between the two countries," said Curtis.

Curtis says New Delhi and Islamabad should now focus on confidence-building measures to de-escalate the situation.
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