Islamabad: Pakistan's security establishment supports the civilian government's efforts to normalise trade relations with India as it believes the move will boost the country's economy and help create grounds for resolving political disputes between the two nations, security officials said.

The Pakistan army supports trade with India because all stakeholders in the country "have been taken on board and the chambers (of commerce) want it," the security officials said during an interaction with Indian journalists.

"The army fully supports trade because it will boost our economy," one official said.

The security establishment backs the decision to normalise trade relations because it was made by a civilian government that is a coalition of various parties which have all supported the move, said the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The security officials indicated that since political disputes between India and Pakistan can neither be put in cold storage nor resolved overnight, the two countries need to forge "some mechanism" that showed to the people that they are working to address outstanding issues.

"Trade may not be the alternative but it shows that the two sides are talking and taking some tangible steps. Unless something is seen to be happening, non-state actors will get fuel to add to their propaganda that both governments are not doing anything. We need to keep talking," one official said.

At the same time, the two countries must remain prepared for "spoilers," the officials said.

In this regard, they referred to the situation in 2001, when a terrorist attack on India's Parliament was blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

That "situation in 2001" had led to the massing of troops "on the border and brought us close to war," the officials said.

Giving "ultimatums" about another Mumbai-like assault or an attack on the US will "only provide an incentive to non-state actors" as neither India nor Pakistan can guarantee that there would not be another incident, the officials contended.

The security officials sought to distance the establishment from Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley's confession that linked an ISI official identified only as "Major Iqbal" to the planning and execution of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
 The officials contended that Major Iqbal was a retired official and that "retired officers are as good as a civilian."

There would be "no end to the blame game" regarding the Mumbai attacks, they further contended.

 In his testimony as a US government witness in a Chicago court last year, Headley had said that Major Iqbal had directed that a Jewish community centre should be added to the list of targets in Mumbai.

Headley, who testified during the trial of Mumbai attacks accused Tahawwur Rana, had also linked former military officer Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha, to the assault on India's financial hub that killed 166 people.

The security officials linked the issue of action against militant groups in the Pakistani heartland with the capacity of security forces, which had already been stretched by the campaign against extremists in the northwest.

"Opening new fronts in central Pakistan at this juncture is not easy as it will test our capacity. So instead of confrontation, we are following a policy of containment. We have to be realistic about our capacity," one official said.

The security officials also sought to dismiss reports of the links between the security establishment and the Defa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), a grouping of over 40 hardline organisations cobbled together by Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

The "problem of unleashing forces like the DPC is that you cannot turn off the tap," the officials contended.

The US recently announced a 10-million-dollar bounty for Saeed, making him one of the five most wanted terrorists in the world.

Saeed formed the DPC last year after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The DPC has organised massive rallies and protests against the US and India across Pakistan in the past few months.

Asked about the military standoff on the Siachen glacier, the security officials said it was "sad that India is not agreeing to go back to the pre-1984 position and then mark the line."

 They claimed the Indian army's position on Siachen is “unjust" as Pakistan's interpretation of the Simla Agreement is that the border beyond point NJ 9842 is "not marked."

The dispute over Siachen is "a matter of interpretation" and the two sides had "agreed in 1989 to go back to the pre-1984 position," the officials claimed.

 Pakistani commentators have stepped up calls for the demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier, described as the world's highest battlefield, after 138 people, mostly soldiers, were buried when an avalanche hit a Pakistan army battalion headquarters at Gyari on April 7.

(Agencies)