Supporting India’s “right to self-defence” in the aftermath of the Uri attack which it dubbed a “clear case of cross-border terrorism”, the US today dismissed the recent attempt by Pakistan to link peace in war-torn Afghanistan with resolution of the Kashmir issue.
The White House backed India’s right to defend itself as with any other country, in view of the recent surgical strike but advised caution given the heavy militarisation between the two neighbours.
It also said that that the US is making every effort to ensure that India become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) by the end of this year.
Making a rare appearance before a Washington audience, Peter Lavoy, the White House’s point person for South Asia, said that India-US ties are the “most dynamic relationship” for the US as he listed the Obama administration’s achievements in strengthening the relationship between the two largest democracies of the world.
“It (Uri) was a clear case of cross-border terrorism. We condemned this act of terrorism. It was a horrific attack. Every country has a right to self defence. But in a heavily militarised relationship that has also experienced three wars, there is indeed a need for caution and restraint,” he said responding to a question on the Uri attack.
“We share with India, the concern for preventing any future attack. We empathise with the Indian position that it needs to respond militarily to cross-border threat of terrorism. But we also advise caution,” Lavoy said.
India and Pakistan have a “friction-filled relationship” and they have not found a way to overcome that, he said.
Last week, Lavoy met the two special envoys of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Kashmir.
The two Pakistani envoys in their public meetings had linked peace in Afghanistan to resolving the Kashmir issue.
“We certainly do not believe that the situation in Afghanistan is linked with Kashmir,” the top White House official said.
Lavoy said the US is making every effort to ensure that India becomes a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group by the end of this year.
“In 2016 India ought to join the NSG,” he said and referred to the commitment made by the US in this regard.
India becoming a member of NSG, he argued would exhibit New Delhi’s new leadership in non-proliferation.
“Every effort is being made to ensure India ought to join NSG this year,” Lavoy said to a question.
“The president has indicated the strong US commitment to helping India join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We believe that India inside the Nuclear Suppliers Group would create an opportunity for India to exhibit leadership in non-proliferation which it has demonstrated in many, many years,” he said.
Reminding the audience that the nuclear issue created friction between the two countries for many, many decades, Lavoy praised the previous Bush administration that concluded the first civil nuclear deal with India and in 2008 there was an agreement with the NSG to provide an exception to India to enable supply of peaceful nuclear technology material. That was the landmark deal.
“This year, in 2016, India ought to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and every effort is being made to ensure that India can occupy place of leadership inside the NSG this year,” Lavoy said in response to a question.
Lavoy said India and the US have shared interest in counter-terrorism, in protecting their societies from the scourge of terrorism and working together to eliminate the threat posed by terror outfits.
He referred to the statement issued by the White House after National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke to her Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in which she condemned “cross-border terrorism” from Pakistan after the Uri attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers.
Regretting that the SAARC summit was not held this year, the White House official said SAARC has not lived up to the potential of that of other regional groupings like ASEAN.
Refraining from giving details of his recent meetings with the Pakistani envoys, he said they were carrying messages from Prime Minister Sharif.
“We certainly do not believe that situation in Afghanistan is linked with the situation in Kashmir. We are very concerned about bringing peace, stability and eventually prosperity to all Afghans. It is a very, very tall order,” he said.
“Afghans and Afghanistan have been afflicted by war and human suffering for too many decades and it is the priority of this administration to provide political and economic security to uplift them from their sufferings,” he said adding everyone in the world recognises this and the international community is committed to working together in this regard.