By Arun Kumar

Washington: A new Pentagon report says Pakistan uses Afghan- and Indian-focused militants operating from its territory to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military.

“Pakistan’s military made gains against the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and foreign fighters in the FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during a major military operation,” the Pentagon said in its October 2014 report on Afghanistan to the US Congress.

But “Afghan- and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability,” said the six-monthly report titled “Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan”.

“Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military,” it said, confirming only what is widely known.

“These relationships run counter to Pakistan’s public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation,” it noted.

“Such groups continue to act as the primary irritant in Afghan-Pakistan bilateral relations,” the defence department report said.

“Although stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan, Pakistan also seeks sufficient Pashtun representation in the Afghan government to prevent Pashtun discontent along the Afghan-Pakistan border and limit India’s influence,” it said.

The report noted that the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Herat province was attacked by a group of four heavily armed militants last May, three days prior to the swearing in of the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As Modi is “perceived as being close to Hindu nationalist groups”, it may have played into the timing of the attack, the report suggested.

In June, the US State department announced that the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, was also “responsible for the Afghan attack.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai denounced the attack and made strong statements supporting relations with India, the report noted.

While the Pakistan government has sought to increase engagement with Afghanistan, “suspicion has surrounded the relationship between Kabul and Islamabad, inhibiting bilateral cooperation on border security protocols”, the report said.

On the other hand, the report noted, the Indian government continues to support the Afghan government “believing a secure and stable Afghanistan will benefit the region and facilitate economic corridors into Central Asia”.

Engagements between India and Afghanistan since the signing of a strategic partnership declaration in 2011 “are reinforcing the positive relationship between Afghanistan and India”, the report noted.

India has shown increased interest in Afghan security assistance, though activities in this area remain limited, it said.

While India does not provide direct military support or training in Afghanistan, the report noted, India currently offers India-based training to Afghan National Security Force personnel across a number of specialties.

The Indian government is committed to expand this programme, the report said.

India also supports a variety of high-visibility projects and initiatives in Afghanistan, the report noted.

These ventures are focused primarily on major infrastructure projects, including electricity generation and transmission, road construction, and mining.