Washington: Even as Pakistan has become "ground zero for the terrorist threat," an influential US senator has advocated support for Islamabad and helping it and India to return to bilateral peace talks disrupted by the Mumbai attacks.
"As America's second post-9/11 President takes office, a single country has become ground zero for the terrorist threat we face," said John Kerry, the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman in an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Times on Friday.
But Pakistan is also "under enormous pressure from all sides, from tensions with India to a ferocious insurgency in the tribal belt to a financial crisis that threatens the solvency of the Pakistani state", the Democratic party's presidential nominee in 2004 said.
"And all of this is being held together by a fledgling civilian government not even a year old," Kerry said. "For our sake and theirs, America must do more to help Pakistan."
"Crucial to this effort will be finding a winning regional strategy that recognizes the centrality of Pakistan's relationships with neighbours such as Afghanistan and India," he said.
"It has become conventional wisdom that the war in Afghanistan can be lost in Pakistan, whose tribal belt offers a sanctuary from which Taliban insurgents launch cross-border raids against us and our Afghan allies," he said.
But "What is often overlooked, however, is that the opposite is true as well: Violent instability in Afghanistan can undercut essential counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan."
"Similarly, as the aftermath of the November terror attacks in Mumbai reminded us, getting Pakistan to focus its military on extremist sanctuaries that endanger American troops also depends on lowering tensions with India."
US must work assiduously to help Pakistan and India to find a path back to the bilateral peace talks which were disrupted by the Mumbai attacks, Kerry said.
The consensus among US intelligence agencies is that top Al Qaeda leaders are plotting their next attack from Pakistan, where the prevalence of religious extremists and nuclear weapons make it the central, crucial front in the struggle to protect America from terrorism, he noted.
But while there is an increasingly broad consensus that Pakistan is the strategic centre of gravity for defeating insurgents in Afghanistan, a military strategy alone cannot prevail on either side of the border, Kerry said