Washington: Pakistan faces a major threat of turning into a failed nation state, a leading Republican presidential candidate has said, advocating that the US shore up its relationships in the region, particularly with India, to meet the potential "turmoil".
   
Republican candidate Jon Huntsman said a greater relationship with India, a country which shares the democratic values of the US, would give Washington "a hedge" in the region.
   
"As you look the world over, I would have to say that Pakistan is a candidate for possible failed nation-state status, probably second only to North Korea," Huntsman said participating in a "Lincoln-Douglas" presidential debate in New Hampshire.
   
"If that were to happen, the turmoil in South Asia would be imponderable at this point. And would our interests be at stake? Of course they would be," the former Utah Governor noted.
   
Contending that Pakistan had become "a training ground for terrorism," Huntsman said the US not only needs to work on this but also needs to tie up aid to outcomes and formulate whether its aid support to the country be channelised through non-governmental groups.
   
"And it means we're going to have to shore up some of the relationships in the region. I think the relationship with India is a primary -- a prime example of a relationship that is waiting to broaden and expand its economic, military intelligence links with the United States.”
   
"It gives us another platform, another set of eyes and ears from which we can see Pakistan. It gives us a little bit of a hedge in the region, which I think is good," he said.
   
Huntsman said stronger ties with India allow the US to "recognise and to compliment" a state that shares many of its values being the largest democracy with a billion people.
   
"Is it lively and colourful during election time in India? Absolutely, it is. They share our values, and I think that's an important thing for us to recognise," said Huntsman, who has an adopted daughter from India.
   
"And as the tumult continues to play out, and the level of uncertainty, in Pakistan and indeed with Afghanistan, and as the various players begins to position themselves to fill what likely will be a void -- Russia will want to play some role; Pakistan will follow India, who will go in and probably support the Northern Alliance. The Chinese will look and say-- wonder what on earth is going on," he said.
   
Huntsman said America's relationship with Pakistan, a country with a complicated set of domestic circumstances, was a "transactional" one.
   
"Today we have a very complicated domestic set of circumstances in Pakistan, with the Islamist group, with the Ministry of Defense, which runs ISI, probably the most powerful body in the country. And of course then your secular government.”

"And a very young demographic, with 180 people, the youngest in South Asia, a thriving madrassa movement, which gives rise to anti-Americanism there," he said.
   
"So I say let's recognise it for what it is. It's a transactional relationship," he said.
   
Huntsman said the US interests in a Pakistan with as many as 100 nukes, lie in preventing proliferation and cooperating in the area of counter-terrorism, besides the need for access for purposes of intelligence collection.
   
"So I want to make sure that our relationship ongoing recognises the contours of the US-Pakistan relationship. It is what it's a is. It's a transactional relationship at best.”
   
"Any aid money that goes in there, if we can afford any at all -- and we have to look very carefully at that – should be tied very specifically to outcomes and to careful cooperation on the part of the Pakistani government".
   
But, he said Pakistan is not going to succeed until it shores up its civil society, take power away from the military and the ISI and give it to the civilian government, "which they've not been able to do".
   
Another Republican presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, also expressed concern over Pakistan's nuclear stockpile.
   
"As Huntsman said, the Pakistanis keep producing nuclear weapons. We have no way of knowing whether or not the Pakistanis actually can control those weapons in a crisis," he said in the debate.

(Agencies)