Terrorism `Enemy No 1` for Indo-Pak peace: Blake

The Obama administration wants Pakistan to expand its counter-terrorism operations from the Afghan border to Punjab.

Updated: May 08, 2010, 11:40 AM IST

Washington: Asserting that terrorism poses the main threat to the Indo-Pak ties, the Obama administration on Friday said Pakistan needs to expand its counter-terrorism operations from the Afghan border to Punjab, where most of anti-India terror groups like LeT are based.

"The principal problem (that prevents the two countries from holding peace talks) is that of terrorism," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said.

It is important for Pakistanis to continue the important steps that they have taken against terrorism in Swat and South Waziristan and against some members of Taliban, he said.

They need to "extend that fight to the groups that are based in Punjab such as LeT that are attacking not only India, but also the United States, and potentially could attack Pakistan itself," Blake said.

This is the message that has been conveyed to Pakistan during Blake`s recent visit to the country. "I think, it is the message that the Pakistanis themselves feel is important to do. They consistently said that they do not want to see terrorism emanating from their soil," he said.

"I think progress towards reining in the activities of the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed and other such groups, would have a very significant impact on bilateral, India and Pakistani ties," Blake said, strongly supporting the Indian stand that Pakistan needs to show its commitment on taking action against anti-India terrorist groups operating from within its border.

New Delhi says that Islamabad has been reluctant to take action against anti-India terrorist groups and their leaders, even though they are freely roaming around and holding public meetings, despite the fact that Pakistan has been provided ample evidence against them.

"We hope to see progress by Pakistan to address these things, which we think would be in Pakistan`s own interests and it would also have great benefit to improve relationship between India and Pakistan," Blake said in response to a question.

Blake, the Obama administration`s pointman for South Asia, also welcomed the recent meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gillani in Thimphu on the margins of the SAARC Summit in Bhutan, wherein the two leaders agreed to resume peace talks at the level of Foreign Ministers.

Blake said the US welcomes the important meeting that took place between Singh and Gilani.

"The atmospherics appeared to be very good and we hope that both countries can build on that positive meeting to have their Foreign Ministers meet for further talks and develop a way forward that they can find the solution to the some of the problems that have been plaguing them," he said.

Blake had attended the April 28-29 SAARC meet in Bhutan as an observer when the two Prime Ministers had met on the sidelines of the summit.

Improvement in relationship between India and Pakistan would also result in strengthening of SAARC, which so far has not been able to realise its potential, he felt.

"SAARC, like many regional groupings, operates by consensus, and there is still not a consensus, principally between India and Pakistan. The speech that received the most applause was that by the Maldivian President (Mohamed Nasheed) who observed that the best thing that could happen to SAARC would be peace between India and Pakistan," he said.

"I think, we all agree with that and we all hope that these two friends (India and Pakistan) of ours can make progress towards peace," Blake said in response to another question.

This was also the message that was conveyed to Singh and Gilani, when they separately met US President Barack Obama during the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit here last month, he said.

"The President`s message was the same that we have always been (conveying) to both of our friends which is - we hope that they can meet, they can resolve their differences, because (it is) in all of our interests that these two friends be able to resume the peaceful relations they had between 2004 and 2007," Blake said.