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Rediff.com  » News » Tillerson arrives in India; asks Pak to step up fight against terror

Tillerson arrives in India; asks Pak to step up fight against terror

October 24, 2017 23:52 IST

IMAGE: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson upon his arrival at AFS Palam in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photograph: Kamal Kishor/PTI Photo 

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday bluntly told Pakistan's top leadership that it must increase efforts to eradicate terrorists operating within the country.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi assured the Secretary of State that his country is committed to the war against terrorism.

 

Tillerson arrived in Islamabad on a whirlwind visit to reset bilateral ties strained after President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorist groups.

During his meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Tillerson discussed the bilateral cooperation and partnership, expanding economic ties between the US and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s critical role in the region.

Abbasi chaired an inter-agency meeting attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Defence Khurram Dastigir Khan, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar and other officials.

The US embassy in Islamabad said that the Secretary reiterated President Trump's message that 'Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country'.

To address those concerns, the Secretary outlined the United States' new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the US and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region, the embassy statement said.

'The Secretary noted that Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States'.

During the meeting, Abbasi assured Tillerson that his country is committed to the war against terrorism.

"The US can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today, Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror," Abbasi said.

Abbasi said Pakistan is 'committed in the war against terror'.

He said Pakistan has produced 'results' in its war against terrorism and it was looking forward to moving ahead with the US and building a tremendous relationship.

So far no official statement was issued by Pakistan but Defence Minister Khan talking to Geo TV said that all aspects of relations were discussed and there was agreement to increase cooperation to defeat militancy.

"They asked Pakistan to take action against groups which are involved in militancy and also urged Pakistan to help create peace in Afghanistan," he said.

IMAGE: Tillerson shakes hand with US Chargé d’Affaires to India MaryKay Loss Carlson on his arrival in New Delhi.  Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo

He said the Pakistani side insisted that its efforts for peace were derailed twice -- once when the news of the death of Mullah Omar was divulged and second when Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor was killed.

He said Pakistan the tone of the US delegation was reconciliatory and it insisted that Pakistan’s role was important for regional peace as it lies between India and Afghanistan.

Khan said that Pakistan also highlighted the issue of Indian presence in Afghanistan and raised concerns about New Delhi's role in security affairs in the war-torn country.

"We said that we do not have any issue with Indian development work in Afghanistan but we have issued with its security role," he said.

He said the US official tried to 'tell us that India is not a threat to Pakistan but our perception was different'.

He said Tillerson expressed gratitude to Pakistan in securing the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from Taliban captivity.

Earlier, Tillerson quietly landed at a military airport in Rawalpindi in the afternoon and was driven to US embassy where he was briefed by senior US officials about relations with Pakistan.

He later met Abbasi at the Prime Minister House and held detailed talks on various aspects of relations.

It was Tillerson’s first visit to the region after Trump unveiled his policy for Afghanistan and South Asia. Trump's remarks in August unruffled the ties already under strain due to various issues.

Later in the evening, Tillerson arrived in New Delhi. He will hold talks with the Indian leadership on Wednesday to discuss further strengthening of Indo-US strategic partnership in key areas, and collaboration on security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Tillerson, who is the second high-ranking official of the Trump Administration to visit India in the last two months, will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis visited India last month.

Ahead of Tillerson's three-day visit, the external affairs ministry had said that there will be detailed discussions on further strengthening of Indo-US partnership.

Strengthening cooperation in strategic areas of defence, counter terrorism, security, energy and trade are expected to figure during the meeting between Swaraj and Tillerson.

Tillerson will meet with senior Indian leaders to 'discuss further strengthening of our strategic partnership and collaboration on security and prosperity' in the Indo-Pacific region, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert had said in Washington last week.

The US Secretary of State, who paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday, said the Trump administration was of the view that India can play a positive role in creating a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani expressed their 'firm resolve' to end the menace of terrorism while emphasising that closure of cross-border safe havens and sanctuaries was essential for lasting peace.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the President of Afghanistan Dr Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photograph: Press Information Bureau of India.

The two leaders also 'positively assessed' the support extended by India in the defence and security fields, including training of thousands of Afghan defence and security personnel with New Delhi agreeing to extend further assistance depending upon the needs of the Afghan defence and police forces.

Detailed discussions were held between the prime minister and the president in one on one format, restricted meeting and a working lunch, a statement by the external affairs ministry said.

The Indian leadership reiterated its support for a negotiated political reconciliation in Afghanistan that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled, the statement said.

'It was emphasised that renunciation of violence and terror, and closure of cross border safe havens and sanctuaries were essential for any meaningful progress and lasting peace,' the Ministry of External Affairs statement said, in an obvious reference to Pakistan. However, the statement did not name Pakistan.

During the wide-ranging talks, deep appreciation was expressed for the bravery with which the Afghan forces were fighting terrorism imposed on Afghanistan.

"The support extended by India in the defence and security fields, including training of thousands of Afghan defence and security personnel was positively assessed. The Indian side agreed to extend further assistance depending upon the needs of the Afghan defence and police forces," it said.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, 'Prime Minister Modi and president Ghani discussed range of bilateral, regional and global issues, express firm resolve to end menace of terrorism.'

This was President Ghani's fourth visit to India in the last 3 years and 12th personal interaction between the two leaders, the ministry said.

Earlier in the morning, President Ghani met his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind and received the external affairs minister.

Sajjad Hussain
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