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US welcomes decision by Pakistan, India to discuss key issues

US welcomes decision by Pakistan, India to discuss key issues

WASHINGTON: The United States has welcomed India and Pakistan’s decision to hold bilateral talks on three key issues, security, people-to-people ties and the Mumbai trial.

In its second statement on a meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in Russia on Friday, the US State Department reiterated its support to all measures that could improve relations between South Asia’s two nuclear states.

“I wanted to welcome the meeting that took place earlier between Prime Ministers Narendera Modi and Nawaz Sharif and their announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan,” a department spokesman Mark Toner told a news briefing in Washington.

“We also welcome the announcement that India and Pakistan will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including security, people-to-people ties and expediting the Mumbai trial,” he said.




“And we support all steps between the governments of India and Pakistan to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation.”

In an earlier statement, State Department’s senior spokesman John Kirby had said that the United States “welcome(s) any steps that both countries can take to try to reduce the tensions. That’s been our longstanding position.”

At the latest briefing Mr Toner played down India and Pakistan’s decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and has disagreed with the suggestion that Russia and China were an existential threat to the United States.

“I’d refer you to India and Pakistan for a reaction to that or for the reasons why they’ve chosen to join that group,” said a department spokesman Mark Toner when asked to comment the two South Asian nations decision to join SCO.

He said that US Secretary of State John Kerry disagreed with the nominated chairman of US the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford’s suggestion that Russia posed an existential threat to the United States.

“The Secretary doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly,” Mr Toner told a news briefing in Washington.

During his confirmation hearing on Thursday, Gen Dunford told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that if they “want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia. And if you look at their behaviour, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

Mr Toner explained that Gen Dunford was “expected to provide his views, his assessment on which nations or entities pose a threat to the United States. And that’s his job.”

Mr Toner said US officials had been “very frank” with Moscow on areas on disagreement, including “calling out Russia for its involvement in eastern Ukraine in terms of troops, in terms of command and control, in terms of heavy equipment”.

“Where I think I tried to specify the difference is the word ‘existential’,” he told reporters. “You know, certainly we have disagreements with Russia and its activities along or within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat.”

He said the US administration and the Kremlin still cooperated closely on certain international issues, including the Iran nuclear talks and the years-long civil war in Syria.

“I would just say what the secretary does consider an existential threat is the rapid growth of extremist groups like ISIL, particularly in ungoverned spaces,” added Toner, using another name for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Published in Dawn ,July 13th, 2015

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