November 5th, 2010
01:56 PM ET

Afghanistan withdrawal could imperil US-India relations, McCain warns

If the United States leaves Afghanistan prematurely,
the subsequent destabilization in the region will impose a "huge bearing" on relations between the United States and India, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the
top Republican on military matters, warned Friday.

"Afghanistan has become a major source of tension between the United States and India, for the primary reason that India does not believe we will stay until the job is done," McCain said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The senator, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Service committee, has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama's plan to begin drawing down troops in July 2011, saying it is a signal to the Taliban of U.S. departure.

McCain warned that if the United States leaves Afghanistan before positive conditions can be reached and maintained on the ground, the consequences will not only be troublesome for the United States, but even worse for India, "which will have a terrorist safe haven on its periphery."

Such a move would deepen India's reliance on Russia and Iran, McCain posited, and demonstrate to India that the United States is both a declining
power and an unreliable partner.

The U.S. policy toward Pakistan has huge implications for America's relations with India as well, McCain said.

He warned that some members of Pakistan's army and intelligence service continue to support terrorist groups, largely because they believe that America will withdraw prematurely from Afghanistan, which pushes the Pakistani military to hedge its bets.

McCain credited "good luck and extraordinary restraint, especially on India's part" as the reasons why the Pakistani military's behavior has has not proved catastrophic for the country.

"But if, God forbid, our luck runs out, I don't know if restraint will be an option, either for India or for us," he said.

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