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US secretary of state Rex Tillerson (left) with PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Brandon/Reuters
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson (left) with PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Brandon/Reuters

India, US demand dismantling of terror infrastructure in Pakistan

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, during his India visit, says US will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism

New Delhi: A day after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani admonished Pakistan for its support to the Taliban, India and the US on Wednesday demanded the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil. With this, the consensus in South Asia against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism seemed clear with Islamabad and its ally China seemingly isolated in their denial of the problem.

In New Delhi on Wednesday on the last leg of a swing through Asia that included stops in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Rex Tillerson in a clear message to Pakistan said that in the “fight against terrorism, the US will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with India. Terrorist safe havens will not be tolerated."

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting terrorist groups on its soil to target India—a charge Pakistan has consistently denied. It now seems to be a major concern shared by the US and the Afghan government, who are together trying to defeat a resurgent Taliban, seen to be backed by Pakistan.

In her remarks, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said India and the US were of the common view that Pakistan should take steps to eliminate terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan. “We believe that President (Donald) Trump’s new South Asia and Afghan policy will only be successful when Pakistan takes action against all terrorist groups operating on its soil without making any distinctions among them," Swaraj said—referring to a speech by Trump on 21 August in which he outlined a new strategy to fight the Taliban and stabilise Afghanistan besides putting Pakistan on notice on its support to terrorism.

“We agreed on the fact that India and the US together had to ensure that no country provides shelter to terrorists. Those countries providing sanctuaries to terrorists or use them (to further their goals), they must be held responsible," Swaraj said.

In later remarks, Tillerson said that during his stop in Islamabad on Tuesday, he had put forth “certain expectations" that the US had on the subject of terrorism and terrorist safe havens and looked forward to action from Islamabad to deny terrorist organisations the power to launch attacks rather than just sharing information with partner countries. “We want to work with Pakistan (on this) because we think its in their interest," Tillerson said.

In their talks, Swaraj and Tillerson also covered regional issues that included North Korea and Iran. On US concerns of diplomatic and trade ties between India and North Korea, Swaraj said commerce between the two nations was “minimal."

“As far as the question of embassy goes, our embassy there is very small, but there is in fact an embassy. I told secretary Tillerson that some of their friendly countries should maintain embassies there so that some channels of communication are kept open," Swaraj said. The comment comes amid efforts by Washington to increase global pressure to isolate Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programmes.

On Iran, with which India has close links and plans for connectivity projects to link landlocked Central Asia and Afghanistan, Tillerson said, “It is not our objective to harm the Iranian people or our objective to interfere in legitimate business activity that are going on with other businesses whether it maybe Europe or India or agreements that are in place that promote economic activity."

Earlier this month, Trump said he was not going to certify that Iran was complying with the terms of a deal struck in 2015 that had rolled back several layers of sanctions imposed on the Shia majority country for years. He also gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

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