US urges Pak-India talks

WASHINGTON - Amid deteriorating Delhi-Islamabad ties, the United States has urged India and Pakistan to have dialogue in an effort to de-escalate tensions in the region, as it advocated strong, cordial and productive relations between the two South Asian neigbours.

“We strongly encourage in all of our dealings with either India or Pakistan stronger relations between the two countries. It’s clearly in the security interests of the region that they work to de-escalate tensions and that they have dialogue,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at the daily press briefing on Thursday.

He was responding to a question about suggestions made in a Congressional panel on Thursday that United States should play the role of mediator between Pakistan and India to avert the potential threat of a nuclear clash and to normalise their relations.

Toner sidestepped the proposal about mediation, saying that the US had been encouraging the two South Asian countries to build strong relations through dialogue, de-escalate the current tensions and not allow the situation "spin out of control".

“That’s something we constantly encourage for just that – or out of just that concern, which is that we don’t want to see tensions escalate, spiral out of control, and lead to some kind of incident,” he said.

“It is important for the two countries, the two governments to maintain strong, cordial, and productive relations,” Toner said. The US, he said, wants Pakistan to take more action against all terror networks.

“Our discussions continue to focus on the fact that we’re urging the Government of Pakistan to take concerted action against safe havens and terrorist groups that threaten other countries in the region and we’ve been very clear about that,” he said.

“And we have seen them attempt to address it. We want to see more action taken, but it continues to be a topic of conversation with them,” he added.

Toner said US relationship with India and Pakistan is not a zero-sum game. “As we’ve said many times, there’s no zero-sum game here. We need to have a very strong and robust relationship with India and we do – the world’s largest democracy. And we also want to have a strong relationship with Pakistan. It’s in the interests of the region to do so,” he added.

Toner also refuted a suggestion that US-Pakistan relations were at "the lowest level", saying their ties were "strong". "Our relationship is strong," he said.

He was responding to a question about State Department's assessment about a sharp deterioration in US-Pakistan relations, citing as evidence Secretary of State John Kerry's decision to skip a visit Islamabad during his recent South Asian trip.

“The recent India and Bangladesh visit of the Secretary of State (John Kerry) and not going to Pakistan should not be treated otherwise,” Toner said.

“It doesn’t clearly indicate anything about our relationship with Pakistan. The Secretary has a very intense travel schedule. He’s been to Pakistan recently; he speaks often to senior Pakistani leadership,” he said and added “Specifically, he was in India for the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and took the opportunity to also visit Bangladesh – I think the first time he’s been there,” he added.

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