NEW DELHI: The United States has categorically stated that there is no question of declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state. A few days after the White House shut down a “we the people’ petition seeking it to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state, the US State Department followed it with a press briefing where its spokesperson John Kirby made it clear that the US was not going to single Pakistan out, as terrorism was a common threat to the region.

Kirby was asked a specific question, “there is a bill going on in the U.S. Congress and also petition online that U.S. should declare Pakistan a terrorist state, because it also happened during President Clinton in the ’90s – same thing – the Congress. So if there is this bill because of these ongoing terrorist activities and all those – so if you are aware of this or – would you support this?”

To this he replied, “I have not seen anything specifically about the – such a bill, and obviously we don’t – I’m not going to comment on whatever pending legislation may be coming in that regard. What we – what I would say is common threat, common challenge in the region, and we’re going to continue to work with Pakistan, with Afghanistan, and the Secretary just came back from Brussels and the Afghanistan conference in Brussels. We’re going to continue to work with – and obviously it’s a threat to the Indian people as well.

So we’re going to continue to work with the governments in the region to try to address these common threats and challenges, and we’ve always said that more can be done about the safe havens and that’s – we’re going to, again, try to work as cooperatively as we can to that end.” This was also a clear indication that the US was back to “working together” with India and Pakistan to work out a resolution, a step back from its recent position where it had started maintaining that India and Pakistan could work these out bilaterally.

Kirby further made it clear that the civilians and children of all three countries had paid for terrorism saying , “there have been Indian children and Pakistani children and Afghan children that have been maimed and murdered at the hands of terrorists for many, many years – not just the last 15, but going well before that.

But let’s just talk about the last 15 years. There’s a heck of a lot of women without soldier husbands anymore, and widowers without wives anymore. The killing has gone on for long enough.”

He acknowledged “differences” between the political establishments of India and Pakistan, saying “Now, obviously there are still differences of opinion that exist between them; and as I said earlier, we want them to work through those differences. We have differences with many countries too, and we continue to try to work through them to the best we – the best we’re able to. And that’s all we’re asking, that’s all we’re hoping, that’s all we’re expecting for leaders in India and Pakistan to do as well.”

Kirby also shrugged off what was being seen as indifference to Jammu and Kashmir in recent days and went on to maintain that the US position on Kashmir has not changed in that it is still considered a dispute between India and Pakistan that needs to be resolved; and two, it wants the tensions to be brought down between India and Pakistan for “meaningful dialogue” to take place.

He said, “And on the Kashmir issue, our position has not changed. We want this to be worked out between both sides, the issue of Kashmir. And generally, generally speaking, I mean, we obviously want to see the tensions that exist right now be brought down and for dialogue to take its place – meaningful dialogue to try to address these issues bilaterally between the countries. Okay?”

Why Is Washington so averse to moving against Pakistan on terrorism. One main reason Afghanistan, that fast surpasses all other considerations for Washington at this moment in time.

The first priority for the US is Afghanistan that it is rushing around to help contain from predicted disaster. Even as the Taliban has taken over Kunduz, the effort remains to retain the fig leaf of a relatively independent Kabul with Washington now working closely with Islamabad to set a new apparatus in the form of warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in place in Kabul. A deal has been brokered between him and the Afghan government, with both Pakistan and the US overseeing its successful execution.

US Secretary of State John Kerry

He, however, said he would not comment on "whatever pending legislation may be coming in that regard". "What we what I would say is common threat, common challenge in the region, and we're going to continue to work with Pakistan, with Afghanistan, and the Secretary (of State) just came back from Brussels and the Afghanistan conference in Brussels. And obviously it's a threat to the Indian people as well.

Kerry has now owned the move with the following remarks two days ago at the Burssels Conference on Afghanistan, “Last week, the Afghan Government announced a peace agreement with the militant group headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the country’s most notorious figures. And the agreement requires Hekmatyar and his commanders to cease violence, cut all ties with their international terrorist organizations, and accept the Afghan constitution, including its guarantee of the rights for women and minorities. In return for keeping these commitments, Hekmatyar’s group will be able to emerge from the shadows to rejoin Afghan society. This is a model for what might be possible. We don’t know yet – has to be delivered – but it is a very important beginning and President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah need to be congratulated together with all of their government for being willing to make this move, for being willing to take this risk.”

And this despite the fact that Hekmatyar is on the most wanted US list, a position from which he is to be removed as per the agreement hammered out between the various stakeholders.

Washington needs Pakistan’s help to stabilise Afghanistan, or at least to some extent. Hekmatyar, known as the ‘butcher of Kabul’ is a ruthless war lord who is totally against India. This is a major plus for Pakistan that by installing him in Kabul is hoping to dramatically reduce India’s equations with the current Afghan government. The US is not particularly concerned, as it is keen to strike off Afghanistan from its list of failures, by bringing in a non-Taliban government in Kabul, under a war lord who can with state resources keep the Taliban out from at least the capital of Afghanistan.