India a partner for peace in Afghanistan: Tillerson

tillersonWASHINGTON: US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson on Wednesday hailed India as a partner for peace in Afghanistan, asking Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups on its soil.

“As we implement President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, we will turn to our partners to ensure greater stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region,” Tillerson said in a major India policy speech.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank, he welcomed India’s development assistance to the war-devastated country.

Pakistan, too, was an important US partner in South Asia, he said, adding their relationships in the region stood on their own merits.

“We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten their own people and the broader region.  In doing so, Pakistan furthers stability and peace for itself and its neighbors …” Tillerson remarked.

Responding to questions later, the secretary said the Afghan government had to be committed to being open to addressing the full needs of the ethnically diverse culture in the country and its own history as well.

“We think that is achievable and we can have a stable, peaceful Afghanistan. When that happens, a big threat is removed from Pakistan’s future stability as well, which then creates a better condition for India-Pakistan relationships,” he said.

The Trump administration intended to work closely both with India and Pakistan to ease tensions along their border, Tillerson said, adding Pakistan had two troubled borders.

“And we’d like to help them take the tension down on both of those and secure a future stable Pakistan Government which we think improves relations in the region as well,” he said.

Asserting that the Afghanistan issue could be resolved by addressing regional challenges, Tillerson said Pakistan and India were the two important elements of that.

“India is an important element of how we achieve the ultimate objective, which is a stable Afghanistan which no longer serves as a platform for terrorist organisations.

“Our policy, quite simply, on terrorism is that we will deny terrorists the opportunity, the means, the location, the wherewithal, the financing, the ability to carry out attacks against Americans at home and abroad, anywhere in the world,” he said.

“Clearly the threat to that policy finds its locus in many ways in Afghanistan.  And so, to the extent we can remove that as an opportunity for terrorism in Afghanistan, the greatest beneficiaries are going to be Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said.

Tillerson said India had an important role in providing development assistance to Afghanistan as they moved forward to create better economic conditions for a very diverse ethnic group of Afghans.

“So it is about a commitment, a message to the Taliban and other elements that we’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here as long as it takes for you to change your mind and decide you want to engage with the Afghan government in a reconciliation process and develop a form of government that does suit the needs of the culture of Afghanistan,” Tillerson said. -By Lalit K Jha, Washington

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