US asks Pakistan to fight terrorists of all hues

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Washington, Jan 5 (IANS) While it believes warmer relations between India and Pakistan would be in the interest of both countries, the US says it was for them to resolve issues bilaterally after the terrorist attack on an Indian Air Force base.

Washington has also “made clear with the highest levels of the government of Pakistan that it must continue to target all militant groups” – including those targeting India – without discrimination.

“Obviously the leaders of both countries are going to have to decide for themselves what they believe is in the interests of their citizens,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday when asked if India should continue the peace initiative.

“The United States certainly believes that warmer relations and more cooperation between the government of India and the government of Pakistan would in the interests of both countries,” he said.

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“But ultimately the leaders of those countries will have to decide for themselves.”

Asked if the US sees Pakistan taking action against terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taeba as promised in a US-Pakistan joint statement, Earnest suggested Islamabad has its own interest in fighting against terrorist groups operating inside their own country.

The US has offered its support to the Pakistani government, he said, “particularly in light of that terrible terrorist incident where we saw an extremist organization carry out an attack against an elementary school inside of Pakistan” a little over a year ago.

That was a rather “vivid illustration” for people “that citizens in Pakistan and the Pakistani government has their own vested interest in trying to deal with terrorist organizations that are attempting to operate inside their country.”

Asked about a report that President Barack Obama has invited the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in March, Earnest said he was “not aware of any upcoming meetings between the President and the leaders of India and Pakistan.”

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At the State Department, again strongly condemning the terrorist attack on an IAF base airbase, spokesperson John Kirby said the US remained “committed to a strong partnership with the Indian Government to combat terrorism.”

Noting that Pakistan “also publicly and privately condemned this recent attack on the Indian airbase, he said, “we’ve been clear with the highest levels of the Government of Pakistan that it must continue to target all militant groups.”

“The Government of Pakistan has said publicly and privately that it’s not going to discriminate among terrorist groups as part of its counterterrorism operations,” Kirby said.

“And the Government of Pakistan has spoken to this, has spoken very powerfully to this, and it’s certainly our expectation that they’ll do exactly what – they’ll treat this exactly the way they’ve said they will.”

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The US was mindful that there remain some safe havens between Afghanistan and Pakistan and certainly between India and Pakistan “that we obviously want to see cleared out,” he said.

“And we continue to engage with the Government of Pakistan to that end,” he said adding “Pakistan itself has said and acknowledged, that it’s not going to discriminate among terrorist groups and it will continue to take the fight.”

Asked if Pakistan was taking enough steps against terrorist networks like Lashkar-e-Taeba and Jaish-e-Mohammad which are targeting India, Kirby said the US wants to see Pakistan continue to press the fight against all terrorists without discrimination.

But “this is an issue that – as are so many issues between India and Pakistan – we want to see them work out bilaterally.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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