Laden, Pak intelligence may be backing LeT
18 October 2001
The Times of India
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
LONDON: International terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and Pakistan''s military intelligence are reportedly providing ''active support'' to the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant outfit operating in Kashmir, a leading institute for strategic studies here has said.In its latest report - The Military Balance 2001-2002 - released here this morning, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said, ''Pakistani military intelligence is ... reported to be giving active support to the Kashmir-based Muslim guerrilla movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, as is the international terrorist Osama bin Laden''.The report says that local support for militancy is dying out in Jammu and Kashmir with the people desiring a peaceful resolution of the issue.The 320-page report says that New Delhi ''wants to cut down on its constant and heavy military commitment in Kashmir, which is a drain on resources that could be better directed to the military-modernisation plans''.''The commitment of a standing force of ... police and military (personnel) to Kashmir is a heavy burden for a country that is trying to implement large-scale reforms'', it says.Referring to the Agra summit, the report said the talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf ''promised much, but delivered little, at least publicly''. The report says ''an important development is the more cooperative relationship between the US and India that has developed since the Bush administration took office in January 2001''.Noting that India was ''embarking upon an ambitious programme to restructure, modernise and re-equip its armed forces'', it says New Delhi''s ''improved relationship with the US may result in financial assistance and thus some impetus to this process.''Referring to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US and the subsequent developments, the report notes that ''a new strategic era has now dawned''.The US has a newly defined enemy which is neither the erstwhile Soviet Union nor a potentially resurgent China, but international terrorism, and especially terrorism capable of ''kidnapping'' states from which it can operate, it says.The report says President Musharraf has joined in condemning the Taliban militia for sheltering bin Laden, but warns that this may prove to be ''costly'', as ''sympathy with the Taliban runs deep among the Pushtun people of Pakistan''.Meanwhile, the report says economic pressures were forcing the Pakistani government to find ways of cutting defence expenditure. ''Islamabad is finding the cost of maintaining a large standing force with a strategic element hard to bear.''In the past 12 months, Pakistan has not test-fired any ballistic missiles... This restraint may be as much to do with the state of the Pakistani economy as with the fact that Pakistan has no need to enhance its capability, having achieved minimum deterrence requirements - a situation underlined by the scaling down of Pakistan''s strategic weapons budget for 2001'', it says.