‘Pak has links with LeT but US cannot snap ties’

Panetta said US had "no choice" but to maintain its relations with Pak to fight al Qaeda.

Washington: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
on Tuesday acknowledged that ally Pakistan keeps ties with
anti-India terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba, but said Washington
had "no choice" but to maintain its relations with Islamabad
if it has to fight al Qaeda in the region.

In possibly the first such hard-hitting statement on
Pakistani establishment`s links with terror networks by a top
US official of the level of Defense Secretary, Panetta said
the US is concerned by this and such issues make ties with
Islamabad "complicated".

"We`re concerned with... the relationships that Pakistan
has, what makes this complicated, is that they have
relationships with the Haqqanis, and the Haqqani tribe are
going across the border and attacking our forces in
Afghanistan, and it`s pretty clear that there`s a relationship
there," he said.

He further went on to acknowledge that Pakistan continues
to have ties with the LeT which has targetted India on more
than one occasion.

"There`s a relationship with LeT. And, you know, this is a
group that goes into India and threatens attacks there, it has
conducted attacks there," Panetta said in response to a
question at National Defense University.

India has long blamed Pakistan for supporting anti-India
terror groups, including the LeT which orchestrated the 2008
Mumbai attacks, despite being a close US ally in the `war on

However, Panetta at a joint public appearance with
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, argued that it was not
possible to cut off relationship with Pakistan as the nuclear
-armed country provided some crucial cooperation in fighting
al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Panetta also cited other difficulties that have crept up
in US-Pak ties including the visa problem.

"In addition to that, you know, they don`t provide visas.
In the relationship there are bumps and grinds to try to work
it through," he said.

Clinton, however, said the US and Pakistan were partners
but given the recurrent differences between the two, it took a
"lot of dialogue" to keep things smooth and working.

"... they don`t always see the world the way we see the
world, and they don`t always cooperate with us on what we
think -- and I`ll be very blunt about this -- is in their
interests," she said.

"You know, I mean, it`s not like we are coming to Pakistan
and encouraging them to do things that will be bad for
Pakistan, but they often don`t follow what our logic is as we
make those cases to them. So it takes a lot of dialogue,"
Clinton said.

However, she said there was little choice before the US
but to carry forward the relationship despite the "bumps and
grinds" as it was fighting a war in the region.

"Yet there is no choice but to maintain a relationship
with Pakistan. Why? Because we`re fighting a war there.
Because we are fighting al Qaeda there, and they do give us,
you know, some cooperation in that effort.

"Because they do represent an important force in that
region. Because they do happen to be a nuclear power that has
nuclear weapons and we have to be concerned about what happens
with those nuclear weapons," she said.

"So for all of those reasons, we have got to maintain a
relationship with Pakistan. And it`s going to be complicated.
It`s going to be ups and downs," Clinton said to which Panetta

Panetta, however, neither confirmed nor denied reports
that Pakistan had given China access to its helicopter that
was damaged in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

"I`m not going to comment because it does relate to
classified intelligence," he said.

Clinton reiterated that the US considers its relationship
with Pakistan to be of paramount importance.

"We think it is very much in America`s interest, we think
it is in the long-term interests of Pakistan, for us to work
through what are very difficult problems in that
relationship," she said.


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