What is US Defense Secretary up to?

The United States Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, is making waves in South Asia. Gates speculated in India yesterday (January 20) that al Qaeda could spark another Indo-Pakistan war and appeared to encourage the Indians by declaring that next time there was a terrorist attack in India, her patience would be limited.

The defense secretary is in Pakistan today. As he arrived in Islamabad, news was out that he planned to tell the Pakistanis to broaden their military operations against the militants. The Pakistani military’s response was ‘No’. Pakistan’s army spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas told the BBC that the country’s armed forces were already stretched and there would be no more operations in 2010.

Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government followed the army’s lead. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Gailani told the Senate the military option was not the only solution to extremism and terrorism as 90 percent success was possible through economic development.

The scenario at the center of Defense Secretary Gates’s speculation potentially involves the following:

  • Militant groups may well want an India-Pakistan confrontation in the east. It would release pressure on them in the north-western frontier region. Pakistan’s army has already launched a number of operations in 2009, causing a serious problem of internally displaced people.
  • The warning Gates issued in Delhi that next time India’s patience would be limited was bound to be viewed as provocative in Pakistan. Surely, it is for the Indian leadership to decide, not for the United States’s.
  • In case of a confrontation visualized by the American defense secretary, the situation has the nasty potential that the fingers of both countries’ leaders could be near the nuclear button. India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons.
  • Aside from the threat of a nuclear showdown, the Taliban and their affiliates would be fighting together with Pakistani troops against India in the event of an Indo-Pakistan conflict.  
  • So what is Gates up to?  
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