April 02, 2012

Pakistan considers India as 'threat' but US differs: Leon Panetta

PTI | Apr 2, 2012, 10.20PM IST

Pakistan considers India as a "threat", US defense secretary Leon Panetta has said, underlining Washington's differences with Islamabad on the common threats facing them.


WASHINGTON: Pakistan considers India as a "threat", US defense secretary Leon Panetta has said, underlining Washington's differences with Islamabad on the common threats facing them.

"It is a complex relationship. It always has been and I suspect it always will be," Panetta toldCBC TV in an interview.

"In some ways we share a common concern and a common threat. Terrorism is as much a threat to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan as it is to us and to the people of Afghanistan," he said.

At the same time, Panetta noted that the two countries differ on the threat perception.

He said while they "have common cause" "the problem" is that Pakistan view their position as "threatened by India".

"As a result of that, sometimes we get very mixed messages from Pakistan as to just exactly where they're going to be," he said.

On the issue of keeping the raid on Osama bin Laden's safehouse in Abbottabad a secret, the Pentagon chief said he did not provide information to Pakistan because he feared this could be leaked by them and would not be able to accomplish their mission.

"The concern we had is that...we had provided intelligence to them with regards to other areas and unfortunately, for one way or another, it got leaked to the individuals we were trying to go after," Panetta said.

"So as a result of that we were concerned that if we were going to perform a sensitive mission like this, we had to do it on our own," he underlined.

Reiterating that he has not come across anything so far which reflects a direct link between the top Pakistani leadership and the safe hideout of bin Laden, Panetta expressed concern how a compound like this would not be known to them (Pakistani establishment).

He said though he had not found direct link or "evidence that involved a direct connection to the Pakistanis", it was a matter of "concern" how bin Laden's compound could come up in an area "where there were military establishments", and military operating and not have them know.

"These situations sometimes, you know, the leadership within Pakistan (sic) is obviously not aware of certain things and yet people lower down in the military establishment find it very well, they've been aware of it. But bottom line is that we have not had evidence that provides that direct link," he noted.

Pakistan is in the final stages of reviewing its ties with the US after the low following a NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Responding to questions, Panetta said the world is much safer now than it was a year ago.

The defense secretary said Bin Laden was was committed to "attacking the US, committed to attacking other countries .

Panetta said the al-Qaida chief continued to assert "almost spiritual leadership". The Pentagon chief said Bin Laden was making efforts, and working "with his leadership to be able to conduct further attacks".

"So he was clearly committed to that goal, and the very fact that he was the individual that put together the 9/11 attack I think made very clear that he was someone we absolutely had to go after, we had to get, and that the key to undermining al-Qaida and to undermining their effort to continue that effort was in large measure going to be getting rid of bin Laden," he underlined.

At the same time, Panetta said bin Laden's leadership was beyond spiritual.

"He was still working through couriers to get his message across," he said, adding it was the couriers that ultimately led the US to his compound from where he was seeking to get his message out and communicate with leaders within the al-Qaida," the defense secretary said.

However, he made it clear that while the US has been successful in going after the al-Qaida leadership, the terror outfit continues to be a threat.

They continue to be a threat not just in the FATA, in Pakistan but in Yemen, Somalia and in North Africa.

"...for that reason we just can't stop continuing to put pressure on them to make sure that they never again have the opportunity to attack our country," Panetta underlined.

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