Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India The Pakistani army is battling Taliban militants along the northwest frontier. Despite the widening influence of the extremists on Pakistan's soil, many Pakistanis perceive their eastern neighbor India as the biggest security threat. Analysts say Pakistan is paying a price for sowing anti-India sentiments.
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Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

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Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

This next report illustrates the old saying that where you stand is determined by where you sit. The United States sees Pakistan as an increasing security problem and a haven for the Taliban and al-Qaida. Pakistanis see the danger, but from where they sit, another threat looms larger.

INSKEEP: Much of Pakistan remains preoccupied with its neighbor India. Today and tomorrow, we'll visit these two nations separated at birth more than 60 years ago. Their tensions constantly affect American efforts in the region.

MONTAGNE: We start on the Pakistani side of the border. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

JULIE MCCARTHY: To appreciate the enduring animosity between Pakistan and India, you could do no better than to visit the Wagah crossing for the lowering of the flags on each side of the border at dusk.

(Soundbite of applause and cheering)

MCCARTHY: This daily ritual draws hundreds of Pakistani spectators on their side of the border, shouting at hundreds of Indians crammed into bleachers on their side.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MCCARTHY: As the crowd bellows, long live Pakistan, black-clad Pakistani rangers stomp closer and closer to their Indian counterparts, heels clicking -brinksmanship as entertainment.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MCCARTHY: A brusque handshake between Pakistani and Indian officers and the gate closes for the night on an enmity that is as old as the 1947 partition that created Muslim Pakistan out of Hindu-dominated India.

Unidentified Man: Pakistan!

Unidentified Group: Pakistan!

Unidentified Man: Pakistan!

Unidentified Group: Pakistan!

MCCARTHY: The ceremony sums up the mutual suspicions with which defense analyst Hasan Askarai Rizvi says each side regards the other.

Mr. HASAN ASKARI RIZVI (Defense Analyst, Pakistan): India doesn't trust what Pakistan says or Pakistan does. And Pakistan is at time paranoid.

MCCARTHY: Paradoxically, some Pakistanis indulge in all things India, from its fashion designers to its movies.

(Soundbite of movie, �Wake up Sid�)

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCCARTHY: The Indian film �Wake Up Sid� draws Lahore's young upper middle class that identifies with the story about the coming of age. As the credits roll, 19-year-old Rafiya Aslam(ph) says, whatever divisions exist belong to the older generation.

Ms. RAFIYA ASLAM: I actually, genuinely feel that there are very few people amongst the new generation, you know, who feel hostility towards India because we genuinely don't, and I don't think Indian citizens feel it either.

MCCARTHY: But historian Mubarak Ali(ph) says Pakistan cannot truly compete with its much bigger neighbor and has compensated by focusing on national security.

Mr. MUBARAK ALI (Historian, Pakistan): You know this is our mistake. So that's why we are lagging far behind.

MCCARTHY: Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas readily acknowledges that the bulk of Pakistani ground forces faces India.

Major General ATHAR ABBAS (Pakistan Army): All the troops that we have are basically meant to confront India, to stop India, who have huge forces in the conventional army. So all our forces are geared for that.

MCCARTHY: The United States wants Pakistan to concentrate on fighting the Taliban, not India. And Abbas says the army has diverted 120,000 troops to the Western border with Afghanistan to combat militants. But he says Pakistan's defense doctrine is based on the demonstrated capability of its huge rival, India, and not on what others may tell Pakistan about the intentions of India.

Maj. Gen. ABBAS: If somebody is trying to convince us, look where you see on the East is not a giant, it is just a pygmy there. So, don't worry about that pygmy and see on the other side there is a growing giant there. But, you know, the state - any state for that matter, would say no man, this is real, you know, this giant is very, very real.

MCCARTHY: Newspaper editor Najam Sethi says even though the Taliban maybe the existential threat, the media and most Pakistanis believe that India remains the most potent danger.

Mr. NAJAM SETHI (Editor, The Daily Times, Pakistan): Whole generations have grown up with this mindset. It's not going to be easy to turn this clock back.

(Soundbite of students reciting national anthem)

MCCARTHY: Here, at the Government Gulberg High School for Boys in Lahore, where the day begins with a national anthem, there is a near unanimous view of India as the other.

It is admired on the cricket pitch and for Bollywood blockbusters, but in the social studies classes of 16-year-old boys, there seems more suspicion than curiosity about their rapidly progressing neighbor to the East.

Raise your hand if you would like to see India, if you would like to go to India.

Is anybody interested in going to India?



MCCARTHY: Textbooks have been rewritten since 2004 to remove the more egregious descriptions of India, excising such phrases as crafty and conniving Hindus. But education expert A.H. Nayyar says students are still taught to regard India as a hostile country.

Mr. A.H. NAYYAR (Education Expert): And continuously think of Pakistan and oneself as a victim of that hostility. This is something which gets ingrained in young minds.

MCCARTHY: Author Ahmed Rashid says most Pakistanis have not yet realized that India may be less interested in perpetuating regional antagonism than it is in projecting global power.

Mr. AHMED RASHID (Author): They'd like to assume that they can play catch-up, that they're equal to India, that the world should treat them on par with India. These are all very outdated paradigms, if you like, from the Cold War.

MCCARTHY: But nor, says Rashid, has India made any effort to mollify Pakistani concerns.

Mr. RASHID: It certainly wouldn't cost India much if it was to start a dialogue on Kashmir.

MCCARTHY: India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over Kashmir, and a dialogue on the territory that has been in dispute since Partition does not seem to be on the horizon.

The terror attack in Mumbai, a year ago, scuttled any hope of that. India blamed the rampage on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Before it was outlawed, the group had close links with Pakistan's intelligence service when it launched a guerrilla war in Kashmir.

Members of Lashkar-e-Taiba are on trial here for the Mumbai attack, but founder Hafiz Saeed is free to deliver fiery sermons at Friday prayers in Lahore.

Mr. HAFIZ SAEED (Lashkar-e-Taiba founder): (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Pakistan detained the cleric in the aftermath of Mumbai. The prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to hold him. Saeed tells followers at an overflowing mosque, we are preaching jihad, whether anyone likes it or not.

Najam Sethi says groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba were once considered strategic assets for Pakistan, but they have now become a huge liability, capable of launching more Mumbai-style attacks.

Mr. SETHI: There are too many rebel elements out here; loose cannons floating around who are quite capable of doing things on their own.

This is the legacy of the last 30 years. We have created monsters which are going to take time to go away.

MCCARTHY: Pakistan's prime minister lamented, this past week, that at a time when the government is committed to combating extremists, the country's forces are overstretched by perpetual tensions with India.

Julia McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

INSKEEP: So that's the view from one side of South Asia's great divide. On the other side, one of the world's great monuments is getting a security overhaul. Indian authorities are surrounding the Taj Mahal with watch towers, barricades, and closed circuit television monitors.

MONTAGNE: They've increased security in many public places over the past year. That's when gunmen attacked a train station, two hotels, and other targets in Mumbai. India has blamed those attacks on Pakistani extremists. Tomorrow we'll have a look at the way India views its neighbor Pakistan.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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