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US backs India on Pakistan, says John Kerry

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Aug 31, 2016, 1:42 am IST
Updated : Aug 31, 2016, 1:42 am IST

Visiting US secretary of state John Kerry said on Tuesday that the United States “fully” backs India on its demand that Pakistan should act against terrorists operating from sanctuaries on its soil, b

Visiting US secretary of state John Kerry said on Tuesday that the United States “fully” backs India on its demand that Pakistan should act against terrorists operating from sanctuaries on its soil, but stopped short of lambasting Islamabad, saying that Pakistan has taken some action near its western border (with Afghanistan) against the Haqqani network.

Mr Kerry, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday evening, co-chaired the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday to discuss, among other things, ways to increase bilateral trade five times, from $100 billion to $500 billion over the next few years.

As evidence of closeness in ties with India, Mr Kerry said that in the past two years (of the Modi government) there was no sense of any “cold war feeling” between the two countries which are now engaging more with each other than during any previous time in their history.

Mr Kerry asserted that his country “stands in strong partnership with India” against all terrorism, even as Ms Swaraj said terror from Pakistan and dialogue with Pakistan cannot go together, adding that there would be no talks till Pakistan acted against terrorism emanating from its soil.

She reminded a foreign journalist that despite her visit to Islamabad in 2015, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief visit to Lahore, India “got (the terror attack in) Pathankot” in return.

Significantly, Mr Kerry said that the US would hold trilateral talks with India and Afghanistan at the UN soon on various issues, including the situation in Afghanistan. When asked if this would mean isolating Pakistan, Mr Kerry said Pakistan should feel rather “encouraged” since all parties want a stable Afghanistan.

The issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism was raised prominently by Ms Swaraj with Mr Kerry and she briefed him on the “continuing problem of cross-border terrorism that India and the larger region face from Pakistan”.

At a joint briefing on Tuesday evening with Ms Swaraj, Mr Kerry said, “I made it very, very clear that United States stands in strong partnership with India against all terrorism no matter where it comes from, no matter what form it takes. As I said, there is no good terrorists, bad terrorists. Terrorism is terrorism. We stand fully behind the Indian demand that there be justice with respect to the Mumbai attacks, with respect to other. We have had conversation with all of the members of the region frankly about the efforts they need to take to curb terrorism that comes out of their countries. That is true of everybody. Anywhere in the world. I think it is crystal clear that US and India are exactly of similar mind with respect to the issue of terror and the need to not only prevent it but to bring those to justice who perpetrate it.”

Mr Kerry said he had spoken with both Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and its Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif “regarding the need to deprive any (terror) group of sanctuary even as he made it clear that the Haqqani network (that carries out terror attacks in Afghanistan) is operating from Pakistani soil.

However, Mr Kerry added that “in recent weeks”, Pakistan has been moving against the Haqqani network “in the western part of the country”.

Ms Swaraj said, “Secretary Kerry and I discussed at length the issue of terrorism, which is the key challenge to the international community, and the foremost threat to international peace and security. I am happy to note that there was a ‘meeting of minds’ on this issue. I briefed Secretary Kerry on the continuing problem of cross-border terrorism that India and the larger region faces from Pakistan. We both agreed that nations must not maintain double standards, such as the categorisation of good and bad terrorists, nor must they act as sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorist organisations. We reaffirmed the urgent necessity for Pakistan to dismantle safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks including Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and D (Dawood Ibrahim) Company.”

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi