Pakistan urged not to fear Indo-US ties

WASHINGTON: The United States assured Pakistan on Wednesday that it had nothing to fear from growing US-India relations because Washington also valued its ties with Islamabad.

At a briefing in Washington, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Robert Blake also addressed India’s concern over a joint US-China statement issued in Beijing on Tuesday which recognised China’s role in improving India-Pakistan relations. The statement also urged China to help prevent Pakistan or Afghanistan from becoming a base for terrorism.

While insisting that the United States wanted India and Pakistan to resolve their differences bilaterally, the US official acknowledged that Washington would like to get China’s views on both ‘Indo-Pak relations and on Afghanistan and solicit their advice on both as we do of India’s’.

Mr Blake noted that China had considerable ‘equities’ in Afghanistan and could play an important role in stabilising that country as well.

Asked how should Islamabad view Mr Singh’s forthcoming visit to the US during which the two countries are expected to announce initiatives aimed at recognising India as an emerging world power, the US official said: ‘I don’t think Islamabad should in any way feel threatened by the steps we are taking to improve our relations with India. We value our relationships with both India and Pakistan.’

At a specially arranged briefing for South Asian journalists at Washington’s Foreign Press Centre on Mr Singh’s visit, Mr Blake noted that Pakistan had moved away some troops from the Indian border to combat militants on the western border but said there was ‘room for more’.

Although Mr Blake praised Pakistan’s efforts to combat the extremists, particularly in Swat and South Waziristan, he urged Pakistani authorities to complete their investigations against the suspects of the Mumbai terror attacks and punish those responsible.

Mr Blake noted that Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed was already sanctioned by both India and Pakistan and urged Islamabad to take action against him.

He said that Pakistan clearly intended to tackle these violent terrorists and had already made ‘a lot of progress’ but urged Pakistan to ensure that its territory was not used for cross-border attacks against India or others.

Mr Blake said that while the United States appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to fight extremists, it hoped that Islamabad would also take action against those who were considered a threat to India and the US.

Pakistan, he said, should also expand its operations beyond Swat and South Waziristan and go to other areas as well.

Responding to a question about Pakistan’s concerns over India’s role in Afghanistan, Mr Blake said the United States welcomed the role New Delhi was playing in stabilising Afghanistan and hoped that India would continue to play a positive role in the war-ravaged country.

Mr Singh arrives in Washington on Nov 22 on a two-day state visit although he will spend five days in the US capital.

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