US rules out facilitating resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has ruled out the possibility of his country playing a role in facilitating the resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue.

Updated: Jan 22, 2010, 08:52 AM IST

Islamabad: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Friday ruled out the possibility of his country playing a role in facilitating the resumption of the composite dialogue
between Pakistan and India, which has been stalled since the
2008 Mumbai attacks.

"I have been involved with both these countries for a
very long time...and I think one thing that has been
consistent throughout the past several decades is that both
Pakistan and India would prefer to deal with their bilateral
problems bilaterally," Gates said.

He was replying to a question during a television
interview on whether the US would be willing to assist in the
resumption of the composite dialogue, which was put on hold by
India after attacks in Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorists
killed nearly 180 people.

Gates pointed out that he, like other American leaders
who had visited the region over the past few decades, had said
that "if we could be of help to either side or both sides in
any way, we would be willing to do that but understand that
they (Pakistan and India) would prefer to handle it

He described al Qaeda and Lashker-e-Toiba, blamed for
the Mumbai attacks, as dangerous groups. India, Pakistan and
Afghanistan had a "shared sense of threat" and "all of these
countries share an enemy in common and it is terrorism," he

Asked about his recent comments that there were links
between Islamabad and militants, Gates declined to go into
specifics and only said the US is confident that the "Pakistan
government understands our concerns and understands we face a
common threat."

He said he was "very comfortable with the partnership
that we have going forward in dealing with this common
extremist threat."

Gates said the "trust deficit" between the US and
Pakistan was "not a current or contemporary development" and
was the "outgrowth of decisions made by the US in 1989 and
early 1990s" when it turned its back on Afghanistan after the
end of the war against Soviet forces.

"Our perception is that if there is a trust deficit,
it is more a function of Pakistan’s concern whether the US is
actually a long-term ally and partner for Pakistan," he said.

One purpose of his current visit to Islamabad is to
tell Pakistan that "we know we made a mistake in 1989 and the
early 1990s and we are determined to be a reliable long-term
partner and ally for Pakistan."

Gates dismissed as "nonsense" media reports about the
US planning to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the event
of a takeover by militants. "We have no intention or desire to
take over any of Pakistan nuclear weapons. We have no desire
to occupy any part of Pakistan or split up any part of
Pakistan," he said. "We are very comfortable with the security
of Pakistan`s nuclear weapons," he added.

Asked if the US knew the whereabouts of al Qaeda chief
Osama bin Laden, Gates replied: "I have no idea. If I knew
where he was, he wouldn’t be there any longer."