WASHINGTON: Ahead of the US-Pak strategic dialogue here, the Obama Administration has said it has clearly told Pakistan that the “existential threat” to it is not India but extremism within its own borders.
“We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’ve told Pakistan clearly that we believe that the existential threat to Pakistan is not India; the existential threat to Pakistan involves extremism within its own borders,” the State Department spokesman, Mr P J Crowley told mediapersons.
His comments came ahead of the third round of strategic dialogue between the US and Pakistan here during which Islamabad is expected to raise concerns about India’s role in Afghanistan.
“We have seen some shifting of emphasis where Pakistan is, in fact, directing more of its effort against these extremist elements, that potentially affect us, but fundamentally affect Pakistan and the government itself,” Mr Crowley said.
That will continue to be an area of discussion between the United States and Pakistan, and also between the US and other countries in the region, Mr Crowley said. Responding to another question, he said there is no reason for Pakistan to fear from a relationship between Afghanistan and India.
“What we’re saying is that Afghanistan is going to have relations with neighbouring countries. That means Afghanistan is going to have a relationship with Iran. Afghanistan is going to have a relationship with Pakistan. Afghanistan is going to have a relationship with India. Afghanistan is going to have a relationship with other countries. This is the neighbourhood that we’re talking about,” he said.
“The real issue is what is the texture and tone of those relations? We believe that there’s a significant opportunity for cooperation, dialogue, trade, cultural exchanges, the kinds of things that countries have in this hemisphere with Mexico, Canada and other countries in our neighbourhood,” he argued.
The US wants to encourage countries to have an effective dialogue with Afghanistan, cooperate where they can and play a constructive role where it is appropriate, Crowley said. “But ultimately, they have to build the kind of relationship with Afghanistan and their government and their people that is appropriate and sustainable.”
“… To the extent that India, Pakistan, Iran or other countries, you know, can play a role in shaping the future of Afghanistan, we will be talking to some of those countries about how to best do that,” Mr Crowley said.
Meanwhile, the US President, Mr Barack Obama will skip Pakistan when he makes his first visit to India and East Asia next month as American officials sought Islamabad’s support for peace talks with the Taliban and pressed the country to take firm military action against militant groups in restive north Waziristan.
The White House said the President had committed to travel to Pakistan next year and was looking forward to welcoming the Pakistan President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari to Washington soon.
Mr Obama conveyed this to a visiting high-level delegation from Pakistan, who are here to participate in the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue, the White House said in a statement, scotching speculations that the President might make an unannounced visit to Islamabad and Kabul before touching down in New Delhi.
“The President explained that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his trip to Asia next month, and committed to visiting Pakistan in 2011”, the statement said.
The visiting Pakistani delegation was led by the Foreign Minister, Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.
During his meeting with the Pakistani delegation, Mr Obama stressed that Washington and Islamabad should move towards a “true partnership” based on mutual respect and common interest.
“The President and the Pakistani delegation agreed on the need for regional stability and cooperating towards a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan”, the statement said.