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A stable Pak. vital for both U.S. and India: Cohen

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI OCT. 28. Pakistan's future is an important issue for both India and the United States and there is a growing interest in both countries to ensure that Pakistan does not collapse, according to Stephen P. Cohen, a U.S.-based South Asia expert.

"It is a concern that we share with most modern Pakistanis too — How to prevent Pakistan from collapsing, which would be a disaster for everybody. And also how to prevent Pakistan from becoming a militant-aggressive state that will also be a disaster," he said.

Speaking to students at the Asian College of Journalism here, Prof. Cohen said there was a major debate in the U.S. and India on terrorism being carried out in the name of Islam and the policies of the two countries towards Pakistan.

"I don't see the two Governments coming together and both countries will have differences on how to deal with Pakistan," he said.

Earlier, talking to The Hindu, Prof. Cohen said the Taliban was a lesser threat to Pakistan than the Al-Qaeda since this outfit was making inroads into the minds of the upper and middle classes of Pakistan.

"I am not worried about the Taliban [in Pakistan]. Taliban is not a very significant group in Pakistan even in the frontier where there are some Taliban elements. The threat in Pakistan is the radicalisation of the elite. That will be the Al-Qaedaisation of Pakistan. That is something that could happen in the future. But I don't see that happening in the short-term."Asked if he was a little too optimistic about India's growth in his book on the country, (`India: Emerging Power,' published in 2001), he said that he was "a little too pessimistic."

"There are two things that are holding India back from becoming a great power. One was Pakistan and Kashmir. The other was economic growth." The country resisting foreign investment and its obsession with Pakistan were among the reasons for its slow progress.

Prof. Cohen said he had travelled to a few places during this trip. And, the places had changed — for the better.

More Indians had moved out of poverty in the past decade, though large numbers were still under the poverty line.

"The rate of growth is faster in the past five or 10 years than in the previous 30 years. My only regret is that it did not happen early."

Prof. Cohen said he wanted to reassess the cautious optimism that he put forth in the book. "I might revise the India book and bring it up-to-date because things have really changed in the three years since I wrote it. Not just strategically, but also economically," he said and added that the only flip side to the growth was that casteism still persisted and hatred for Muslims was rising in certain parts of the country.

"The [actions of the] nativist anti-Christian, anti-Muslim elements are frightening. But I think that the Indian political system has a self-balancing quality about it and in the long-run, this will curtail its [targeted communal flares'] recurrence."

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