Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stood united in calling for India’s arch-rival Pakistan to take a tougher line on terror during a joint press conference in New Delhi Wednesday.
“We have extended to Pakistan certain expectations we have of their government and their leadership to deal with, in particular, these organizations, the leaders of these organizations,” the American secretary of state recounted of his recent meeting with Pakistani diplomats.
As he sat with his Indian counterpart, Tillerson told reporters:
In our discussions with Pakistani leadership yesterday in Islamabad we had a very open, frank exchange around the concerns the United States shares with other regional partners and allies – India, but also Afghanistan – that there are too many terrorist organizations that find a safe place in Pakistan from which to conduct their operations and attacks against other countries.
The harsher tone with Pakistan, nominally an American ally in South Asia, comes as what may be seen as a larger American diplomatic shift underway by the Trump administration. In August, President Donald Trump accused the country of serving as a safe haven for terrorists and the Taliban and not living up the legacy of the Cold War American-Pakistani alliance. Meanwhile, Trump indicated that the United States would seek warmer relations with India, friendly with the Soviet-bloc during the Cold War, a move Tillerson’s visit may be part of.
Evidence has repeatedly indicated that Pakistan has kept ties with Islamists in Afghanistan and elsewhere as a means of power projection. While the United States has frequently been willing to ignore this relationship since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the issue came to a head when Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011, less than a mile from Pakistan’s most important military academy.
Tillerson emphasized that he thought cracking down on long-festering Islamist terror cells was in the Pakistani government’s interest.”Quite frankly, my view – and I expressed this to the leadership of Pakistan – is we also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan’s government as well,” Tillerson said. ” As these terrorist organizations have enlarged their numbers and have enlarged their strength and their capability within Pakistan’s borders, this can lead to a threat to Pakistan’s own stability.”
Swaraj, the Indian minister, echoed Tillerson and Trump’s concerns about Pakistani government policies. “We agreed that Pakistan should take immediate steps to dismantle safe havens for terrorist groups and bring the perpetrators of Mumbai and Pathankot and other terrorist attacks,” she told reporters. “We believe that effective action by Pakistan against all terrorist groups without distinction is critical to the success of the new strategy of President Trump.”