US urges Islamabad, india to resolve differences WASHINGTON: “Seen the rhetoric, heard the rhetoric,” said the US State Department while urging the South Asian neighbours to tone down their tit-for-tat altercations, as India took its campaign to get Pakistan declared a “state sponsor of terrorism” to the White House.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 110,000 Indian-Americans had signed a petition asking the White House to declare Pakistan a “state sponsor of terrorism”.
At least 100,000 signatures are required to force the White House to respond within 60 days. The online petition was created on Sept 21.
Both the White House and the State Department, however, are trying to avoid a situation where they are forced to take an ‘either India or Pakistan’ approach. The United States administration insists that both countries are its key allies and wants them to engage in a dialogue to resolve their differences.
“We have long urged India and Pakistan to find ways to resolve their differences not through violence but through diplomacy,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest when a journalist asked him whom did the US support. Pakistan and India have always vied for influence in the US but the competition has increased since July 8, when Indian security forces killed a Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani, unleashing a popular uprising in the disputed region against Indian occupation. Since then, Indian forces have killed more than 100 people, blinded hundreds with pellet guns and injured more than 10,000 while trying to curb an increasingly popular protest.
Last week, the countries took their dispute to the United Nations General Assembly. “Seen the rhetoric, heard the rhetoric,” said State Department’s deputy spokesman Mark Toner when asked to comment on the UNGA debate.
“We believe India and Pakistan really stand to benefit from the normalisation of relations between them and practical cooperation between them, and we encourage both India and Pakistan to pursue and engage in direct dialogue that is aimed at reducing tensions.”
A journalist reminded him that India and the US were holding joint military exercises in the region and for the first time in history, Russia was holding similar exercises with Pakistan.
“Well, if the insinuation is that there’s some kind of tit-for-tat or Great Game being played out here, that’s not at all the case,” said the US official.
“Look, we’ve long said with regard to Pakistan, with regard to India, with regard to the region, there’s no zero-sum game here.”
The US had a “very close, deep and broad bilateral relationship” with India but it was not at Pakistan’s expense, he said.
“They are the world’s largest democracy and we share a similar vision of the world. And we obviously have very close trade and economic ties with India, and also that extends to security cooperation,” said Mr Toner while explaining the US-India ties. “Similarly, with Pakistan, we want to see Pakistan better able to respond to the threat that terrorism poses both domestically for Pakistan but also the fact that there are terrorist groups that seek refuge or asylum or shelter in Pakistan’s territory,” he added.
Responding to a question about the signature campaign against Pakistan, the US official said that’s a very specific process and determination that involved a legal process and assessment.
“Our focus with Pakistan is to enhance their capability to deal with a terrorist threat on their soil. They’re fighting a serious and sustained campaign against violent extremism. We do believe that they’re making progress, that they’re taking steps to counter terrorist violence,” he said.
“But at the same time we’ve been very clear that they need to target all militant groups, including those that target Pakistan’s neighbours, and close all safe havens,” he added.