US offers to be `interlocutor` between India, Pakistan

The US hopes Indo-Pak talks would "blossom into a full-blown discussion" to resolve issues like Kashmir and offered to be a handy and helpful.

Washington: Acknowledging India`s "legitimate concerns" about terrorism emanating from Pakistan, the US has hoped the Indo-Pak talks would "blossom into a full-blown discussion" to resolve issues like Kashmir and offered to be a handy and helpful "interlocutor" if the two sides desired so.

"I think that is a legitimate concern," US National Security Adviser James Jones said, when asked about Indian concerns about terrorism emanating from the Pakistani soil that is targeted against India.

"I would even actually go beyond that I think, whether it is Pakistan or any other country in the 21st century, if a country wants to have a serious progressive position in the world where their economy develops, where their society develops and the instruments of governance are strong, you have to reject all forms of terrorism," he said.

Encouraged by the decision of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to resume their peace talks, he said the US is offering assistance in this regard based on what both the countries would like.

"We take the direction from India and Pakistan to try to be interlocutor that is handy and helpful. But basically, this has to be done by the Indian and Pakistani authorities. In whatever way we can be helpful, we are happy to help," he said.

"We know that there are certain things that must be done, in order to bring about any kind of a long-term resolution and that`s why bilaterally with Pakistan, we are focusing on problems of terrorism," Jones asserted.

He was in particular highly appreciative of the leadership of the Prime Minister.

"I think that the Prime Minister has shown great courage and leadership by pulling troops from the Pakistani border. We realise that there is a political cost for him. And we admire that gesture," he said.

"He has been patient in supporting the talks that have started. So I actually think, we are not in a position to give India advice. I think, if we can be in a position to be helpful in some ways that is how I would characterise our position right now," Jones said when asked what the US would like India to do in terms of improving ties with Pakistan.

When referred to Pakistan`s wish list to the US on resolving the Kashmir issue, as was widely reported in the mainstream US media early this year, Jones said: "It would be wrong to think that the United States is going to be able to come up with a formula for it that somehow can be dropped down on the two countries."

Getting the two countries to talk is the first step and any long-term resolution has to come from the two South Asian neighbours, he said. "So our hope is that these initial talks (between India and Pakistan) would blossom into a full blown discussion and that the more sensitive topics can eventually be addressed," Jones said.

"We think that we can be helpful regionally by being successful in Afghanistan, by commencing and helping Pakistan to overcome the scourge of terrorist activity within their borders and by doing what we can to help build trust and confidence between Pakistan and India," he said.

There are problems between India and Pakistan that need to be addressed and tensions and suspicions that existed for long time between the two countries need to be removed, he said.

"It is easy to say, it is not easy to do, but at some point, you have to get to the starting point and we are hopeful that these discussions are there," Jones said.

The US National Security Adviser also acknowledged the growing threat from Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

"Lashkar-e-Toiba is a threat to all of us. It is a terrorist organisation, originally focused on India, but has developed capacities and demonstrated capacities to operate in other areas in Afghanistan and shows signs of being a big threat," he said.

"It is an example of everything that I have been talking about, something that has to be addressed. And part and parcel of my visit to Pakistan was to re-emphasise that terrorism in any form has to be rejected," said Jones, who visited Pakistan last month along with CIA director Leon Panetta following investigations which revealed that Pakistani Taliban was behind the failed Times Square bombing.

He said he carried a message to Islamabad on behalf of President Barack Obama that "we are pleased with their actions (against Taliban and al Qaeda) today, but there has to be more."

"I am not asking them to do everything all at once, but for a clear commitment that all aspects of terrorism whether they are directed towards India or the United States or Afghanistan or any other country in the world that have an existence within their borders have to be eliminated for their own good, for their own future, for their own relationships and I am optimistic that they will be moving in the right direction," Jones said.

Asked if he sees Pakistan sensitive to India`s concerns in this regard and if stronger actions against terror groups are forthcoming in the weeks and months ahead, Jones said: "Well, I can`t predict what is going to happen in the short time frame, but I think, the logic of the message speaks for itself, I am very happy to see that there is some dialogue between Pakistan and India."

"If we listen to both sides, both sides are pleased with the current talks and we want to be helpful and we want to help particularly in those areas that cause friction and as I said this is a long-term commitment," he said.

"We would like to see the (South Asian) region ultimately much more stable, free of terrorism and full of economic interchange, a better way of life for all the people in the region and a better association bilaterally with the United States," Jones said.

The US is encouraged by the actions that it has seen against militancy in Pakistan in the last year and wants to be able to encourage them and provide assistance so that they continue in this positive way, he said.

"We want to show countries like Pakistan which have this particular problem that there is a better way of life, there is the chance for quicker economic development, building confidence for business to invest in areas and countries that are generally roughly in natural resources but dis-incentivise economic investment because of the fear of terrorism.”

"So it is really in those ways that we can be helpful," Jones explained as to how the US plans to be helpful in improving the situation in South Asia.


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