India-Pakistan tensions cast long shadow over president Barack Obama’s visit, the US media reported on Sunday as a think-tank expert said that the US leader might ask New Delhi to resume dialogue with Islamabad.
The White House, meanwhile, has said that the Pakistani government recognised that extremists operating in “virtual impunity” in certain areas of the country posed a significant threat to its citizens.
In a report on Obama’s visit, The Wall Street Journal observed that the US president had arrived in New Delhi “at a time of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan”, who had recently been trading heavy fire across the LOC.
Joshua White, an analyst at the Stimson Centre, a think-tank in Washington, told WSJ that the resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue was important for maintaining a durable peace in South Asia.
“As long as India and Pakistan are not talking there is a heightened risk that a terrorist attack in India, or a spiralling border skirmish, could spark a crisis,” he said.
White also said that during the current visit, Obama was likely to urge prime minister Narendra Modi to resume some kind of dialogue with Pakistan.
“To avoid being seen as chiding his host, the president probably intends to deliver this message behind closed doors,” he said.
White House Deputy National-Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters in Washington earlier this week that the pursuit of dialogue “is something that the United States has consistently supported, and we will continue to do so”.
And at another news briefing at the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest indicated that for the resumption of dialogue, it was important that Pakistan stopped all terrorist activities emanating from its soil.
“For a long time, this administration has expressed concerns about some areas of Pakistan where extremists operate in virtual impunity, and in many cases, use that safe haven to carry out attacks against American forces … in Afghanistan,” he said.
The United States remained concerned about this and had raised those concerns with Pakistan as well, he said.
Earnest, however, noted that recently Pakistan had taken “additional steps” to try to root out the extremists operating in that area.
The White House official pointed out that while the United States welcomed these measures, “those are steps that are ultimately taken by the Pakistani government because they recognise that the extremist threat that exists in their country poses a significant threat to their citizens”.
He noted that on December 16, Taliban terrorists attacked a school in Peshawar and killed 132 children.
The attack endorsed the US position that “far more victims” of these terrorist attacks “are Muslim than are anybody else”, Earnest said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday that attacks like the Taliban-claimed massacre at a Peshawar school could never be rationalised.
“This kind of atrocity can never be rationalised. It has to be opposed by every fibre of our being,” he said. But in the fight against “anarchy”, “we have to also keep our heads”, Kerry warned.
“There is no room for sectarian division. There is no room for anti-Semitism or Islamophobia,” he added.