Secretary of State Tillerson says Pakistan’s stability and security is threatened by these terror groups. Destabilisation of Pak Govt is not in anyone’s interests
Nation special report
NEW DELHI: In order to have first hand information, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, paid a whirlwind visit to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and held wide-ranging and confidence building talks with the civilian and military leadership of these countries.
During his visit to India on Wednesday, he said that the United States was concerned that extremist groups “left unchecked in Pakistan” posed a “threat to the stability and security” of the government in Islamabad.
“This could lead to a threat to Pakistan’s own stability. It is not in anyone’s interests that the government of Pakistan be destabilised,” he told reporters in New Delhi.
Tillerson arrived from Pakistan where he was given a low-key reception after US complaints about Islamabad backing Taliban militants on its soil.
In New Delhi Tillerson held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a meeting with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. He started the day by meeting national security adviser Ajit Doval.
Tillerson also laid a wreath at a memorial to India’s independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi, removing his shoes to approach a pillar marking the spot where Gandhi was shot dead on January 30, 1948.
Support for efforts to bolster the Afghan government, China’s influence and other Asian security issues were expected to dominate talks in New Delhi, officials said.
Last week, Tillerson had called for deeper cooperation with India in the face of growing Chinese influence in Asia and said Washington wanted to promote a “free and open” region led by prosperous democracies.
Talks in Islamabad
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Pakistani leadership on Tuesday to step up their fight against terrorist groups on their soil and facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process. “The secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” a US Embassy statement on Mr Tillerson’s visit said.
Mr Tillerson’s message appeared significantly toned down as compared to the usual American rhetoric on alleged terrorist sanctuaries on Pakistani soil, although in essence there was little difference in the messaging.
The secretary had just a day earlier told reporters at Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase that Islamabad needed to have “a clear-eyed view” of terror safe havens on its territory and cautioned that bilateral ties would be conditions-based in terms of whether or not its leaders take the “specific” actions that were being required of them.
In an attempt to allay Pakistan’s concerns, the secretary on multiple occasions during his few hours in Islamabad stressed Pakistan’s importance for America’s policy in this region and attainment of the goals set under President Trump’s South Asia strategy.
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“Pakistan is important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship as well,” Mr Tillerson said before the start of the talks.
Mr Tillerson held delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at the PM House. The Pakistani delegation, which was led by the prime minister, included Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.
It was one of the rare occasions when the often squabbling civilian and military leaders met the visiting US leader together to underscore their consensus on foreign policy issues.
Outlining US expectations from Islamabad, the secretary told his interlocutors that Pakistan should “facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan”, and contribute to shared interests of “establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating (the militant) Islamic State in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States”.
Frayed Pak-US ties came under fresh strains after President Trump, while announcing his South Asia strategy, accused Pakistan of insincerity in fighting terrorism, while taking billions of dollars from the US. But leaders of the two countries later worked together to avert a breakdown in relationship.