US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday she was ‘encouraged’ by recent efforts by India and Pakistan to get their stop-start peace process back on track.
India had suspended the four-year peace process following the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai which New Delhi alleged were carried out by Pakistan-based militants.
“We are encouraged by the dialogue occurring between India and Pakistan,” Clinton told a joint news conference after talks with India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna in the Indian capital.
“We think it is the most promising approach, to encourage both sides to build more confidence between them and work to implement the kinds of steps that will demonstrate the improved atmosphere that is so necessary for us to deal with the underlying problem of terrorism.”
Clinton’s statement coincided with a meeting between Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Sharat Sabharwal and Pakistan’s first woman foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, at the Foreign Office.
Khar voiced satisfaction at the resumption of the ‘full spectrum dialogue’ between the two countries and stressed that the dialogue process should be “uninterrupted and uninterruptable”.
Sabharwal, on his part, said that India’s external affairs minister is looking forward to Khar’s visit to India. The two foreign ministers are to meet in New Delhi next week.
At New Delhi news conference, Clinton also pledged strong US support for India’s battle against extremism and said she would press Pakistan to do more to crack down on militants believed to be operating from its territory.
She said that the United States has made it “forcefully clear” to Pakistan that it has a special obligation to bring perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice.
“Obviously, there is a limit to what both the United States and India can do, but we intend to continue to press (Pakistan) as hard as possible,” Clinton said.
At the same time, she appreciated Pakistan’s contribution to the global fight against terrorism which, she said, threatened both the US and Pakistan.
“Terrorists have actually killed more Pakistanis in bombings of mosques and markets, in attacks on police stations and government buildings, than Americans,” she said. “We recognise that Pakistan must act on its own behalf first and foremost to protect its own territory and sovereignty and to protect the lives of its people.”
She described Pakistan as a ‘key ally’ in the fight against terrorism. “We want a long-term relationship with Pakistan based on common interests, including a mutual recognition that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists anywhere,” she said.
At the talks, Clinton briefed the Indian leaders on US plans to draw down troops in Afghanistan as well as on Pakistan.
But Krishna urged the US to consider the ‘ground realities’ in Afghanistan and ensure its troop pullout does not provide space for the re-emergence of Taliban-sponsored ‘terrorism’.
“We have impressed on the US and other countries who have a major presence in Afghanistan that it is necessary for them to continue in Afghanistan”.
Clinton also urged India to amend a law that has put off US companies from taking part in the $150 billion nuclear energy market and further open up its economy to foreign investment. “We need to resolve those issues that still remain so that we can reap the rewards of the extraordinary work that both of our governments have done,” Clinton said.
Washington wants New Delhi to “tighten up” legislation to protect equipment makers from liability in case of nuclear accidents.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.