Tillerson did not pull any punches with Pakistan

Updates from : The Hindu .

U.S. Secretary of State told Islamabad to stop support to terror and pushed for the capture of Haqqani, Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders

In contrast to previous visits by top-ranking U.S. officials, Pakistan has been clearly told this time to shut down support to terror groups, Indian officials told The Hindu on the visit of U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

During his interaction with the press after meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Mr. Tillerson said the U.S. had called for a special mechanism with Pakistan to share “not just information but action taken” against terror groups.

“We have extended to Pakistan certain conditions and expectations we have … in particular with regard to these organisations, and the leaders of these organisations,” Mr. Tillerson said.

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The officials said Mr. Tillerson was even more candid during his meetings in Delhi, and they were optimistic that the Pakistani government had got a stern message.

“There were no half-messages, as in the past. [The Trump administration] is behaving differently from other U.S. administrations, and we must recognise that,” said a senior official present at the meetings between Mr. Tillerson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ms. Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval here on Wednesday.

Unambiguous message

“The message given was that either Pakistan must take action against these groups, or the U.S. troops [in Afghanistan] will,” the official added.

Sources said Mr. Doval, who met Mr. Tillerson on Wednesday morning, began the meeting by asking Mr. Tillerson for his “assessment” of Pakistan’s readiness to take action on terror groups. Mr. Tillerson gave Mr. Doval a full description of his meetings in Islamabad with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who he met together on Tuesday.

Asked if the U.S. had mentioned the groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba that threaten India the most, a South Block source said, “No specific groups were mentioned [by Mr. Tillerson].”

It is understood that in Islamabad, Mr. Tillerson pushed for the capture of the Haqqani network chief, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Al- Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders.

India has consistently objected to any discrimination between terror groups operating in Pakistan. Last week, the U.S. failed to react to Pakistan’s decision to drop terror charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act against LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind and a terrorist designated by the UN Security Council.The statements made by Indian and U.S. officials on Wednesday also contained no references to “cross-border” terrorism that India faces from Pakistan.

Clarity on challenges

Even so, Indian officials said that after the briefing by Mr. Tillerson, there was some satisfaction about the U.S.’s clarity on the challenges.

“The U.S. understands that safe havens in Pakistan are the real problem. It may convey that message in different ways, but unlike past governments, U.S. officials are no longer mincing their words,” a senior External Affairs Ministry official said.

Mr. Tillerson’s tough words in Delhi echoed his remarks in Kabul where he told Pakistan that America’s relations would be “conditional” on Pakistani action against groups including the Taliban. However in Islamabad itself, the U.S. government’s public utterances were more diplomatic.

After his meeting with Mr. Modi, the External Affairs Ministry said the two leaders had exchanged views on Mr. Tillerson’s travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan this week.

“PM [Modi] noted the commonality in the objectives of eradicating terrorism, terrorist infrastructure, safe havens and support, while bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.”

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