New Delhi: India on Friday highlighted US “focus” on the mention of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Haqqani Network in the US-Pakistan joint statement, but downplayed references to Kashmir and the sale of F-16 aircraft in the document.
The joint statement released in Washington on Thursday called for a “sustained and resilient” dialogue process between India and Pakistan which would resolve all “outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful means and working together to address mutual concerns of India and Pakistan regarding terrorism”. It also expressed concern at the violence along the Line of Control.
While the joint statement said that both countries will continue to talk on nuclear issues, a senior US administration official said that an India-type civil nuclear deal was not on the table with Pakistan.
After the White House meeting with US President Barack Obama, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif had again asked for third party mediation in Kashmir, which India firmly opposes. “(Currently) there are no bilateral talks (between India and Pakistan) on resolving the Kashmir issue. In such a scenario, there should be a third party meditation on this. If India does not accept a third party role, if there is no bilateral talks, then there is a stalemate,” said Sharif.
On terrorism, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said after the Obama-Sharif meeting, “We have been very clear with the Pakistani government that… it must take action against all militant groups without discriminating.”
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said India had “always desired resolution of all outstanding issues with Pakistan bilaterally through dialogue and peaceful means”. “It is Pakistan which has chosen terrorism as the instrument of state policy. We hope that this visit conveys a clear message to Pakistan that the international community is deeply concerned about its support and sponsorship of terrorists,” said Swarup. The MEA spokesperson, in fact, began by taking a dig. “Let me begin with terrorism. That comes naturally to mind when talking about Pakistan,” he said. Swarup claimed that it was “significant” that a US-Pakistan joint statement had for the “first time” mentioned Lashkar-e-Toiba and Haqqani Network.
Stating that India had read the assurance about these two entities and terrorism in general offered by Pakistan, he added, “We hope that they deliver on these commitments.”
Meanwhile, the appointment of former Pakistan Lieutenant General Naseer Khan Janjua as its new NSA is also significant since India and Pakistan had agreed to hold a meeting of the National Security Advisors — though Islamabad had cancelled it after New Delhi refused to put Kashmir on the agenda.
“We remain open to the NSA-level talks as per the Ufa understanding,” Swarup said.
The sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan elicited the familiar position. “Our reservation to supply of such systems is well known and it needs no reiteration,” he said, adding that it was still not a done deal.
India seems to be relying now on the United States Congress to stop the defence sale to Pakistan.
“We have been told that the matter is yet to be discussed in Congress where many leading figures, who understand Pakistan well, have already questioned its rationale… It needs certain approvals. We hope that right sections will raise concerns about this.”
The joint statement also said that the United States will help in securing funding for projects like the Diamar Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan, to which India had objected. Even last year, the US government had organised a fundraiser for Diamer Bhasha dam, as the World Bank was reluctant to give its approval for the project.
Swarup said India opposes any developmental projects in areas which belong to India but are under forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan. “We have made it clear to all the countries,” he added.
On the reference to “strategic stability” in the bilateral document, Swarup said eventually it comes down to cooperation in nuclear power. “Given Pakistan’s history of clandestine and illegal activity on the nuclear side, obviously, implications of the assertion by the Pakistan Foreign Secretary have to be carefully considered,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to claim that its nuclear weapons were to deter India, even though warheads production exceeded India as per independent reports.
“While refusing dialogue, India is engaged in a major arms build-up, regrettably with the active assistance of several powers. It has adopted dangerous military doctrines. This will compel Pakistan to take several counter measures to preserve credible deterrence,” Sharif said at a speech at United States Institute of Peace on Friday.
In the run-up to the visit, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry had announced that Islamabad was manufacturing “tactical” nuclear devices to deter India’s ‘cold start’ doctrine which has never been formally accepted by the Indian Army.
The appointment of ex-Lieutenant General Naseer Khan Janjua as the new National Security Advisor is also significant as India and Pakistan had agreed to hold a meeting of the National Security Advisors — though had Islamabad cancelled it.
“We remain open to the NSA-level talks as per the Ufa understanding,” he said.
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