The Asian Cockpit

LONDON – With the July terrorist attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul – which left 41 dead and the finger of suspicion pointing at the Pakistani intelligence services – the world was again reminded why the Indian sub-continent has eclipsed the Middle East as the world’s flash-point.

Both American presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, have made clear that they expect the Pakistani government to take action against militants, and that they would be willing to authorize strikes inside Pakistan. But a more comprehensive Euro-Atlantic approach will be required to deal with the region’s problems.

The story of Western failure in Afghanistan is now all too familiar, painfully illustrated, almost weekly, by the repatriation of fallen NATO soldiers. But the story is repeated across the border in Pakistan, with serious consequences for both countries.

The optimism that followed the recent Pakistani elections has turned to concern as the government’s negotiations with militants appear to have made a terrorist safe-haven safer and attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan more frequent. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services are sympathetic to an Islamic fundamentalist creed, militant groups affiliated with al Qaeda operate freely on its territory, and government infighting has made it difficult to establish civilian control over the military.