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Does Pakistan Really Rank Extremist Threat Higher Than India?

Pakistani and Indian military leaders exchange sweets during an Aug. 14, 2010 border ceremony celebrating Pakistani independence. NARINDER NANU/AFP hide caption

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One story that deserved more attention than it received this week was a report in The Wall Street Journal that Pakistan's intelligence apparatus, the Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, has downgraded the threat from rival India. It now says the Pakistan's greatest threat comes from domestic extremists.

The story was understandably overshadowed by the massive flooding in Pakistan which has affected upwards of 15 million people.

According to the WSJ:

Pakistan's main spy agency says homegrown Islamist militants have overtaken the Indian army as the greatest threat to national security, a finding with potential ramifications for relations between the two rival South Asian nations and for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

A recent internal assessment of security by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's powerful military spy agency, determined that for the first time in 63 years it expects a majority of threats to come from Islamist militants, according to a senior ISI officer.

This would be huge if it truly represents a genuine strategic shift by Pakistan that leads to that nation putting much more of its resources into the fight against domestic extremists and many fewer resources into fighting India.

But there are questions about what's really going on, especially since Pakistan's top military leader, Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani recently reiterated that India was his nation's main concern.

As the Times of India reported:

The sudden turnaround in downgrading the Indian ''threat,'' reportedly contained in a recent internal assessment of security by the country’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), comes only weeks after the country’s military supremo Pervez Ashfaq Kayani rebuffed Washington’s efforts to highlight the threat of home-grown terrorism while insisting India remained the principal enemy.

Pakistan experts and Indians have long accused the Muslim nation of relying on extremists as proxy warriors used by the Muslim nation to keep Hindu-ruled India off-balance and to extend Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan.

Muslim extremists have attacked Indian interests in the disputed Kashmir region, attacks Indian officials have blamed on Pakistan.

India has has also blamed the 2008 Mumbai attacks on Pakistan, a charge Pakistani officials deny.

There was another possible sign of a Pakistan shift in its relationship to India. Its foreign minister said Friday that his nation would accept $5 million in financial assistance from India.

It took a week for Pakistan to publicly accept the Indian money which it was probably in no position to refuse. After all, it would have been awkward to reject an aid offer from India while at the same time urgently asking the rest of the world for assistance.