Obama says elements behind Mumbai attacks must face justice

US President Barack Obama. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: US Presi­dent Barack Obama, who begins his second, three-day visit to India on Sunday, has said that it’s unacceptable for Pakistan to provide safe havens to terrorists.

In an interview to India Today magazine on the eve of his visit, Mr Obama insisted that those behind the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai must face justice.

Also read: US warning report baseless, says Pakistan

Although the White House assured Islamabad earlier this week that its relations with India were not at Pakistan’s expense, South Asian experts in Washington emphasise the need for Pakistan to reconsider its policies towards India.

One of these experts, Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Inter­national Center for Scholars, wrote in The New York Times on Friday that the US administration should address New Delhi’s concerns about Islamabad—while taking care to maintain its relationship with Islamabad.

“Washington needs to execute a delicate dance: Push back against Pakistan in order to further America’s friendship with India, while taking care not to alienate the Pakistanis,” he wrote.

The issue of Pakistan-based terrorism was also discussed at a news briefing at the US State Department where spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked if Pakistan had indeed disbanded Jamaatud Dawa and the Haqqani network and if it had, why was it still allowing them to hold rallies inside the country.

Ms Psaki said that like others she too had seen reports saying that Pakistan had banned those groups.

“The Pakistani government has made clear in both private conversations and public statements that it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to take steps against all militant groups in Pakistan and explicitly do not differentiate between such group,” she said.

“We support this commitment and believe that it’s fundamental to addressing terrorism and ensuring attacks, such as the horrific one that happened just weeks ago, -the impact of the Peshawar schoolchildren, never occur again.”

Ms Psaki acknowledged that Pakistan was working through the process of implementing measures to thwart violent extremism, including the national action plan, which included banning militant groups.

But the US official also failed to clear the confusion that have been expressed in some media reports as well, which questioned whether Pakistan had actually banned the groups.

“We don’t have any confirmation of specific steps,” Ms Psaki said while promising to check and report back to the media.

In his interview to “India Today”, President Obama made it obvious that Washing­ton’s relations with New Delhi were much broader than India-Pakistan conflict.

He supported India’s demand to be made a permanent member of the UN Security Council and reminded the world community that India was a major player in international affairs.

“I firmly believe that the relationship between the United States and India can be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” he said.

“We are natural partners, two great democracies, our strength is rooted in the power and potential of our citizens.

As entrepreneurial societies, we’re global leaders in innovation, science and technology.”

President Obama noted that India’s strategic location, enabled it to play a greater role in advancing “our shared security and prosperity” in the Asia-Pacific.

“When India and the US work together, both our countries, and the world, are more secure and prosperous,” he said.

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