Pakistani envoys on a diplomatic mission to Washington this week gave a stern warning to President Obama: ignoring the conflict in Kashmir will hurt U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism efforts against the Taliban.
Pakistan’s delegation came to awareness of the Kashmir issue, and what they describe as India’s gross violations of human rights in the region. On Friday, Sen. Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Defence Committee, met with the National Security Council to relay his message.
Unrest in the disputed region has entered its fourth month, sparked by the July killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a 22-year old Hizbul Mujahideen commander and something of a folk hero to many Muslim residents resentful of India’s control over the region. This ignited protests and an uprising in the Muslim majority region, followed by a swift crackdown by Indian police and military. The Pakistanis claim that Indian forces have been shooting blinding buckshot pellets at protesters and bystanders. On Tuesday, Sayed presented the State Department with photos of people who have been injured by the pellets, photos that he also shared with reporters at the Pakistani Embassy.
But casualties in Kashmir’s recent tensions have not been one-sided. Last month, militants killed 18 Indian soldiers in an attack on an Indian base in the town of Uri. Militants also hit an Indian soldier camp last week. In September, India claimed that it had carried out surgical strikes against militants planning to stage additional attacks across the border. Pakistan denies the strikes occurred and instead says that India has been targeting Pakistani soldiers with cross-border shelling.
The worsening situation could directly affect the ability of Pakistan to carry out counterterrorism operations against Afghan militants and the Taliban, according to Sayed.
“If the situation on the Eastern Front heats up because of India’s mistakes and follies in India-occupied Kashmir …when Pakistan already has 200,000 troops posted on the Western front facing Afghanistan and engaged in joint counter terrorism operations with the United States, it will obviously affect the security paradigm. We can’t just look here,” he said, referring to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, “we have to look this way also. Perhaps the Indians are out to do something. And that could affect counter terror operations. And that’s why we feel the United States should also factor in that important element,” Syed told reporters. On Friday, he said he was carrying that message to Obama’s National Security Council.
Pakistan is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign military aid. But in August, the United States put a $300 million military aid package to the country on hold. Defense Secretary Ash Carter refused to certify to Congress that Pakistan was taking sufficient steps against the Haqqani network, a Taliban-aligned group that has been staging attacks against the Afghan government. “There is not adequate pressure being put on the Haqqanis” by the Pakistan government, General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. and Nato forces told reporters at Pentagon in September.
For a time, Pakistan-US military relations commanded headlines as Pentagon leaders worked closely and frequently with Pakistan’s Army and intelligence chiefs to increase and coordinate counterterrorism operation. But those relations, and the public support for Pakistan’s military efforts, have steadily dissipated since the American raid to kill Osama bin Laden inside of Pakistan and the retirement of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who was the U.S. military’s chief warrior-diplomat to Pakistan and urged the U.S. to keep pressuring Pakistan to fight in America’s fight.
The message from Pakistan seems to be: we know. But our problems are your problems.