*NEW DELHI:* The US’s new National Security Advisor (NSA) John Bolton, known for being an extreme hawk in diplomatic circles, may not be as hard on Pakistan as his President Donald Trump wants him to be, reported *Times of India <link>* . <link>
Media interviews with Bolton – named NSA yesterday – from the recent past suggest that while he believes Pakistan does need to be dealt with firmly, the US needs to strike a delicate balance in the matter and leave the heavy lifting to China.
That’s because Bolton – a former US ambassador to the UN – believes that Pakistan, a nuclear weapons state, is perpetually teetering on the brink of embracing Islamic extremism and terror. And pushing it too hard could well lead to it becoming “a terrorist country with nuclear weapons”, or as Bolton described it last August to *Breitbart.com*, “Iran or North Korea on steroids”.
Bolton’s interview with *Breitbart*took place right after Trump announced his administration’s new policy on Afghanistan, which entailed putting pressure on Pakistan to end what Trump described as “safe havens to agents of chaos and terror”.
Bolton said he believes the US goal should be preventing the Taliban from taking back control and a key ally in the fulfilment of that goal, whether anyone likes it or not, is Pakistan.
“…it’s clear the president wants to pressure Pakistan more. Well, I agree with that, and I think Obama didn’t pressure them enough… But there’s a real problem with simply saying, ‘By God, we’re going to squeeze Pakistan until they finally push the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmati out of the privileged sanctuaries they’ve had in Pakistan, push them back into Afghanistan, and stop supplying them, stop giving them weapons, stop giving them money’”, said Bolton to *Breitbart.*
Bolton said the problem with such an approach is that it might lead to a situation where anti-US sentiment fuels popular support for Islamist radicals and the Taliban.
“If you push too hard, this government in Pakistan is fragile. It has been since the partition of British India …The military in Pakistan itself is at risk, increasingly, of being infiltrated through the officer ranks by radical Islamists. Many people believe the intelligence services unit already is heavily dominated by Islamists,” he explained.
If radicals take over the Pakistan government completely, it’s “the ultimate risk” said Bolton.
“…if Pakistani Taliban or other radicals took control of that country, it wouldn’t just be another base to launch terrorist operations against us or Western Europe. It would be a terrorist country with nuclear weapons, so it would be Iran or North Korea on steroids right now,” he warned.
Too much pressure on Pakistan could backfire, Bolton wrote last August in *The Wall Street Journal*.
“Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilising the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamicists, who grow stronger by the day. In this unstable environment, blunt pressure by the US—and, by inference, India — could backfire,” said the now NSA in a column for the Journal.
Here’s where China can step in and should be pressured to, the new NSA said.