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Tillerson to highlight US strategy – Terror dominates talks

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence on Oct 25, in New Delhi, India. (AP)

NEW DELHI, Oct 25, (Agencies): Combating terrorism and India’s role in war-torn Afghanistan dominated talks between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Indian counterpart Wednesday as the US official highlighted the Trump administration’s new strategy for South Asia. India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said that India had agreed to hold talks on Afghanistan with Washington and Kabul.

Tillerson, who arrived in New Delhi after stops in Kabul and Islamabad, said that he had conveyed to Pakistan’s leaders “certain expectations” that the Trump administration had about controlling terror groups that operate from its soil. He added that too many terror groups had found a safe place in Pakistan to launch attacks against others.

Tillerson held talks Tuesday with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif and the heads of the army and intelligence services. US officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye or assisting the Afghan Taleban and the allied Haqqani network. New Delhi has also long blamed its neighbor and archrival of supporting terror groups that have launched attacks inside India, including a three-day attack in India’s business capital Mumbai in 2008 that left 166 dead after 10 gunman rampaged through parts of the city.

Tillerson said the United States is concerned that extremist groups are threatening the “stability and security” of the Pakistan government. Tillerson, who arrived in New Delhi late Tuesday after a brief and tense stop in Islamabad, said too many extremists were finding sanctuary inside Pakistan to launch attacks on other nations. He said Pakistan had an interest “in not just containing these organizations but ultimately eliminating” the groups. “Quite frankly my view — and I expressed this to the leadership of Pakistan — is we also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan’s government as well,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “This could lead to a threat to Pakistan’s own stability.

It is not in anyone’s interests that the government of Pakistan be destabilised.” Tillerson’s visit — the first to the nuclear-armed nation by a senior offi- cial from President Trump’s administration — follows months of pressure from Washington on Pakistan over its alleged support for Taleban militants. It follows an unannounced stop in Kabul Monday, where Tillerson reiterated America’s commitment to Afghanistan and warned that Washington has made “very specific requests” of Pakistan over militancy. Trump has angrily accused Islamabad of harbouring “agents of chaos” who could attack US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of supporting Afghan militants including the Taleban. They are believed to have links to Pakistan’s military establishment, which aims to use them as a regional bulwark against arch-nemesis India. Pakistan has repeatedly denied the charge, insisting it maintains contacts only to try to bring the militants to peace talks.

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