Pak-India tension could turn into a nuclear conflict, says US General Votel

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WASHINGTON: In a testimony before US Senate Armed Services Committee, General Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command (CETCOM) warned that conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange.

Gen. Joseph said that by seeking to isolate Pakistan, India is creating an obstruction to the development of communication between the two countries. Indian policy is causing further deterioration in relations between the two countries.

“Furthermore, India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan hinders any prospects for improved relations. This is especially troubling as a significant conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange, given that both are nuclear powers,” Votel said.

“India remains concerned about the lack of action against India-focused militants based in Pakistan and even responded militarily to terrorist attacks in India-held territory earlier this year,” Votel told top American Senators.

“[India] responded militarily to terrorist attacks in India-held territory earlier this year,” he said, adding that “these types of attacks and the potential reactions, increase the likelihood for miscalculation by both countries”.

Additionally, the American general said, “The need for an increased focus on Pakistan’s eastern border detracts from its efforts to secure the western border with Afghanistan from incursion by Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.”

“Security along the western border will nevertheless remain a priority for Islamabad, as the Pakistani military seeks to expand border control and improve paramilitary security,” he said.

The Centcom commander claimed that 20 terrorist organisations operate in the Pak-Afghan sub-region. “Seven of the 20 organisations are in Pakistan,” Gen Votel alleged.

“So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan,” he claimed.

The general lauded “promising coordination” between the Pak-Afghan militaries, he said, adding that the US government was encouraged by military operation Radd-ul-Fasaad “in which they set up simultaneous multiple blocking positions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”

The Pak-US relationship “remains a very important one”, he maintained.

“We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Pakistani military leadership, to include the new Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in the days ahead as we work together in pursuit of shared interests.”