Kerry Walks The Tight Rope Between India And Pakistan
John Kerry and Nawaz Sharif
NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Pakistan on Monday, with counterterrorism being the key point of discussion in the wake of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in December last year.
Kerry’s visit to Pakistan follows a two day visit to India for the Vibrant Gujarat summit. Whilst praising Pakistan’s army operations in North Waziristan as “significant,” the US official cautioned that all terror groups -- including the ones operating across the border in India -- need to be targeted.
"Terror groups like the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e Taiba, and other groups, continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, to its neighbours, and to the United States, and we all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these groups do not gain a foothold but rather are pushed back into the recesses of (Pakistan’s) memory," Kerry said in Islamabad, adding that "This task is obviously far from finished.”
Kerry’s visit also comes as tensions between India and Pakistan soar as firing continues across the Line of Control, with each side blaming the other for the aggression. The visit also follows a controversy regarding the US decision to deliver civilian aid to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar bill (otherwise known as the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009). The pre-requisite to this $532 million aid is a clearance that Pakistan has taken “action against” anti-India terror groups Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
India had reacted sharply to this, with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson saying in an official statement, “How the Government of the United States of America decides to spend U.S.taxpayers’ money is entirely its prerogative… However, India does not believe that Pakistan is showing “sustained commitment” or making “significant effort” or ceasing support” or dismantling “bases of operations” of the Laskhar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Haqqani network and quite possibly the al-Qaeda.”
The US denied that the aid had been cleared. “No certification has been sought for funds to Pakistan, and no funds disbursed since 2013,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, but added that the aid could be disbursed through “additional funding”. Pakistani media, in turn, criticised India for stalling the aid.
Given this context, Kerry will be walking a tightrope in Pakistan as India-Pakistan tensions continue to soar, with the Secretary of State having to present India’s demands over terror groups such as the LeT and JeM, whilst facing pressure from Pakistan over the delay in funding that seems to have been promised.
Kerry in fact referred to the increasing tensions between the two neighbouring countries, and expressed concern. “We continue to be deeply concerned by the recent spate of increased violence along the working boundary and the line of control," Kerry said. It is profoundly in the interests of Pakistan and India to move this relationship forward.”
Kerry’s visit to the region comes a few weeks ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India later this month.