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Pakistani  troops head towards the Swat valley in Dargai May 8, 2009.
 
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'Pak is paranoid about India's role in Afghanistan'
On the US nudging India to resume its composite dialogue with Pakistan, Riedel predicted that he did not believe "you are going to get any serious movement in dialogue as long as there is no resolution of Mumbai."

Meanwhile, he asserted that there's not going to be any "fundamental change between India and Pakistan," unless the issue of Kashmir is addressed, and he said that Prime Minister Singh "ought to be open to going back" to the composite dialogue and the back-channel discussions on the Kashmir issue, "as long as there is clear indication that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and its fellow travelers are put out of business and shut down."

Riedel said the jihadists were not just 60 miles from Islamabad as was being breathlessly reported by the world media after the Taliban captured the Swat valley and surrounding areas, which has now apparently been taken back by the Pakistan army.

"I always thought the imagery of 60 miles from Islamabad was misplaced, because the jihadists are in Islamabad, they are in Lahore, they are in Karachi." On Pakistan's regular spiel in recent months that it should be offered a similar deal by the US, akin to the US-Indian civilian nuclear deal, he called it not just wishful thinking, but something that will never come to pass, particularly in an Obama administration, because "Pakistan cannot escape the legacy of A Q Khan."

At the Brookings seminar the other day on an update on the US strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, you spoke about how crucial India was as a strategic ally of the United States in this regard and how integral Delhi's role is as President Obama pursues his AfPak policy. Why?

I believe that India is absolutely crucial, both to our policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Towards Pakistan, the tensions between India and Pakistan and that it could get worse constantly threatens to undermine, if not completely destroy everything we are trying to do to persuade Pakistan cease being a hothouse of terror and cease being a source of threat to the region.

In Afghanistan, India has a large role to play in helping to stabilise the (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai government and providing resources to do that is absolutely crucial in that regard.

Pakistan has been paranoid about India's role in Afghanistan and India, as you pointed out that the recent Brookings event, has apparently in a deliberate manner kept a sort of low profile, providing the resources and assistance to Afghanistan to develop its infrastructure and development needs instead of any military or security assistance to combat Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But India obviously finds the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan as much or more a threat to its national security as it is to Washington? India knows from bitter experience in the past that instability in Afghanistan, particularly jihadist-inspired instability can pose a threat to India's own national interests.

The hijacking of IC-814, and the whole bitter experience of Kandahar in 1999, is a vivid reminder to Indians that a Taliban government -- a jihadist government in Afghanistan -- is a threat to India's national interests. And, the Indian government, over the course of the last seven years, has done a lot in Afghanistan, particularly in the extreme southwest.

Now, the Pakistanis have tended to see this in the worst possible light, which I think is unfortunate, and we should look for ways to try to encourage Indian stabilising activity in Afghanistan and persuade the Pakistanis not to see this as a zero-sum game for them.

Image: Pakistani troops head towards the Swat valley in Dargai May 8, 2009.
Photograph: Asif Aziz/Reuters
Also read: The Taliban is not only Pakistan's problem
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