Militants Overtake India as Top Threat, Says Pakistan's ISI Pakistan's main spy agency says homegrown Islamist militants have overtaken the Indian army as the greatest threat to national security, a finding with potential ramifications for relations between the two rival South Asian nations and for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. A recent internal assessment of security by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's powerful military spy agency, determined that for the first time in 63 years it expects a majority of threats to come from Islamist militants, according to a senior ISI officer. The assessment, a regular review of national security, allocates a two-thirds likelihood of a major threat to the state coming from militants rather than from India or elsewhere. It is the first time since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947 that India hasn't been viewed as the top threat. Decades into one of the most bitter neighborly rivalries in modern history, both countries maintain huge troop deployments along their Himalayan border. "It's earth shattering. That's a remarkable change," said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism specialist and professor at Georgetown University. "It's yet another ratcheting up of the Pakistanis' recognition of not only their own internal problems but cooperation in the war on terrorism."It is unclear whether the assessment of the ISIâ€”a powerful group largely staffed by active military officersâ€”is fully endorsed by Pakistan's military and civilian government. The report's impact on troop positioning and Pakistan's war against militants remains to be seen. The assessment reflects the thinking in the mainstream of the ISI. But U.S. officials worry that elements of Pakistan's military establishment, which they say includes retired ISI officers, continue to lend support to militants that shelter in Pakistan's tribal regions, an effort these people say is aimed at building influence in Afghanistan once the U.S. pulls out. The U.S., which gives between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in military aid to Pakistan annually, is particularly concerned about one of these groups, the Haqqani network. U.S. military officials recently stopped asking the Pakistanis to take action against the group, which has strong ties to al Qaeda, because they concluded pressuring the Pakistanis on the issue wasn't working. Gen. Athar Abbas, the chief Pakistan military spokesman, said he hadn't seen the ISI report. He said India remained a threat but confirmed that it is the ISI's role to draw up security assessments. A spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs didn't return calls seeking comment. Over the weekend, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged Pakistan to crack down on militants. "If this is not done, we cannot progress far in our dialogue with Pakistan," Mr. Singhhe said. Pakistan's admissionthat domestic militants are its No. 1 enemy could reinvigorate stalled peace talks with India."It's a good sign, but one has to wait and watch" whether it will lead to sterner action by Pakistan against militants, says Naresh Chandra, a former Indian ambassador to the U.S. and chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, which advises the government on security policy. The assessment has the potential to shift Pakistan's Afghan policy, which has been driven by the belief that India is seeking influence there in order to encircle its traditional enemy. While the jostling for influence in Afghanistan between Pakistan and India isn't likely to diminish, the ISI's assessment could push Pakistan to take even stronger action against Pakistani and Afghan militants operating from the porous mountain region along the country's border with Afghanistan. Such action, U.S. officials have said, is a key to winning the Afghan war. Hindu-majority India and largely Muslim Pakistan have fought three wars over territory since 1947. Both sides are nuclear armed and have historically regarded the other as a pre-eminent threat to security. The U.S. has been playing a behind-the-scenes role to dial down tensions between the nations. Washington wants Pakistan to redeploy more troops from its eastern frontier with India and send them to Pakistan's western border regions, which Taliban militants use as a base for attacks on U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces inside Afghanistan. Peace talks began in 2004 but India pulled out in November 2008 after 10 Pakistani gunmen killed more than 160 people in an attack on Mumbai, India's financial capital. The sides started talking again in February but have so farmade little progress amid Indian accusations that Pakistan hasn't moved firmly enough against the attacks' perpetrators. The significance of the ISI's assessment will hinge on exactly which militant groups it considers a threat, said Georgetown's Mr. Hoffman. The Pakistan Taliban and its allies have unleashed a wave of suicide bombings across Pakistan, killing almost 7,000 civilians since 2003. These attacks have turned public sentiment against the Pakistan Taliban. The U.S. has praised the military's war against the Pakistan Taliban, begun in earnest two years ago. , which has led to the death of more than 2,000 Pakistani soldiers.But it has been frustrated by Pakistan's failure to broaden the war to go after other al Qaeda-linked militant groups that use Pakistan's tribal regions to launch attacks on U.S. forces. Some U.S. officials believe elements of the military continue to fund the Haqqani network, which doesn't attack Pakistani forces and could be useful allies in Afghanistan when the U.S. pulls troops out. India says it believes the ISI retains ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which New Delhi blames for carrying out the Mumbai attacks. The ISI, whose links with militant groups dates to the U.S.-backed war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, says it has now severed relations with groups including the Haqqanis and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The ISI's new assessment is at odds with the projection of India inside Pakistan. Politicians and the media regularly hold up India as working to undermine Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan. Others believe India is stealing water from Pakistan by building dams on shared rivers. And many Pakistanis blame India for funding a separatist insurgency in Baluchistan province. India denies the charges. A recent report by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., found that 53% of Pakistanis polled considered India the biggest threat to national security versus 23% for the Taliban and 3% for al Qaeda. Pakistan became especially focused on the threat from India after losing East Pakistan, now the independent nation of Bangladesh, after a war between the two nations in 1971. Some 80,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner by India and Pakistan lost half of its territory. Although there has been no formal war since then, Pakistan trained and armed Islamist guerrillasâ€”including militants from Lashkar-e-Taibaâ€”in the 1990s to fight Indian troops in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory that was split between India and Pakistan in 1948 and is claimed in its entirety by both countries. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. pressured Pakistan to ban Lashkar-e-Taiba and a number of other Islamist militant groups, leading to a drop in militant infiltrations into Indian-held Kashmir. But many of the Punjab-based militants continued to operate, finding shelter with Taliban fighters in the tribal areas. Gen. Abbas, the military spokesman, says Pakistan plans to mount a campaign against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan, the group's mountainous base in the tribal regions. But the operation has been delayed as the Pakistan Taliban has recently staged a comeback in other tribal areas that the military had earlier secured, he added. Pakistan has about 150,000 soldiers fighting on its western border, with an additional100,000 in reserve to rotate with those troops, the senior ISI officer said. The country's remaining 350,000 soldiers are focused on the border with India, including the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. "The direct threat from India has reduced considerably but that's not to say it's diminished entirely," the ISI officer said. Obama administration officials have expressed fears Pakistan could move troops back to the Indian frontier if relations with India deteriorate. In April, MichÃ¨le Flournoy, under secretary of defense for policy, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that "Pakistan's strategic concerns about India remain pre-eminent" despite the redeployment of troops to fight militants. "Any significant escalation of tensions between Pakistan and India could cause Pakistan to shift its large military presence in the western border areas back toward its eastern border with India," Ms. Flournoy said. "We must continue to reassure Pakistan that as it combats the threats posed by its domestic terrorists, it is not exposing itself to increased risk along its eastern border."