The United States on Saturday played down fears that its South Asia policy was no longer even-handed, insisting that its ties with both Islamabad and New Delhi were vital to its strategic interests.
“We have assured both countries that the United States relationship with India and with Pakistan, both these relationships are strong, they are vital to our strategic interests and they stand on their own,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at a news briefing in Washington, DC.
“We work with Pakistan on a range of issues… [and] we work with India on a range of issues… but we have certainly reiterated our strong commitment to our strategic relationship with Pakistan,” she said when asked if Washington had assured Islamabad that the US-India nuclear deal would not drastically affect strategic stability in South Asia.
“As you know, Secretary [John Kerry] was just there a couple of weeks ago visiting with them and reiterating our commitment.”
Responding to a question about what Washington was doing to encourage Islamabad and New Delhi to resume peace talks, Psaki said “we consistently encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan.”
“[But] the scope and scale of the process there is up to those countries to determine,” she added.
In response to concerns that the UN-India nuclear deal could free up nuclear material for use in weapons can kick up a new arms race in the region, the spokeswoman said that “there are a range of requirements in this type of deal, and certainly, we factor in a range of factors as we make them.”
On the other hand, when asked if the murder of three American civilian contractors in Kabul by the Taliban on Thursday was an act of terrorism, Psaki said, “Obviously, any attack that kills contractors, that kills individuals who are working there in harm’s way, is horrific and a tragedy.”
She added, however, that she was not going to put “any new labels on it today.”
“The Department of Defence has spoken to this a bit, so I’d point you to their comments. We’ve seen reports that the Taliban have claimed responsibility. There’s an investigation going on into this incident,” she added. A day before, the White House refused to label the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist group, a move that drew criticism from the American right.
“They do carry out tactics akin to terrorism [and] they do pursue terror attacks to advance their agenda, [but] it’s important to draw a distinction between the Taliban and al Qaeda,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest had said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2015.