Islamabad: Pakistan must fight militant groups that threaten Indian, US and Afghan interests, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, and offered $250 million aid for militancy affected people Tuesday.
Visiting Pakistan after going to India over the weekend, Kerry said all terrorist groups should be targeted for the security of the region.
Terror groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let), and other terrorist groups continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, its neighbours and to the US,” Kerry said during a joint press conference here with Pakistan foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz.
While listing some of the most feared terrorist groups, he said “all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these terrorist groups do not gain a foothold but rather are pushed back into the recesses of (Pakistan’s) memory.”
Most US-led forces in neighbouring Afghanistan officially completed their combat mission last month, prompting concerns about the stability of the region where insurgents have been increasingly aggressive in the past months.
Following the Dec 16 Taliban attack on the Peshawar Army School in which over 140 students and teachers were killed, Pakistan promised to stop differentiating between “good” and “bad” militants and to step up operations against their hideouts on the Afghan border.
Kerry expressed appreciation for the sacrifices of Pakistan’s military personnel and civilians in the fight against terrorism and extremism and commended Pakistan’s resolve and the steps being taken to tackle terrorism in a comprehensive and robust manner.
Kerry said Washington, which has spent billions of dollars on military aid to Pakistan will help it to fight insurgents and would provide an additional $250 million aid in food, shelter and other assistance to help people displaced by the conflict in the tribal areas.
Speaking alongside Kerry, Sartaj Aziz made a plea to the US to keep giving Pakistan money to help rebuild the regions where the Pakistani military has been fighting militant groups. “We expect our defence forces to remain engaged in counter-terrorism operations for some time in the foreseeable future,” Aziz said.
“Continuation of coalition support fund reimbursements is therefore a valuable support that must continue in the interests of both countries”.
Aziz and Kerry reaffirmed their shared commitment to expanding and deepening bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation. The Economic and Finance Working Group reviewed the progress made in promoting bilateral economic relations in Oct 2014 in Washington.
The US acknowledged the progress made by Pakistan in steadying its economy and advancing the reform agenda defined by Prime Minister Sharif and his government in close cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral institutions. Kerry welcomed Pakistan’s efforts to improve its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing framework in cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Both sides expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the 23rd round of the Defence Consultative Group (DCG) held in Washington December 2014 and committed to areas for future defence cooperation. They noted that the DCG Working Group played a role in strengthening cooperation to support both countries’ security interests. Both sides renewed their mutual commitment to a strong defence relationship.
Kerry and Aziz noted that a peaceful, stable, independent, united and prosperous Afghanistan is vital for peace and stability in the region. Kerry welcomed the renewed and intensified engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan.
He encouraged continued dialogue and cooperation between both sides, recognising the importance of cooperation for the stability of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the broader region.
Meanwhile, during the joint press conference, key advisor Aziz said the US being an influential member of the international community could prevail upon India to work with Pakistan for regional peace and economic prosperity.
“The cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks by India, followed by the recent incidents of unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (International Border) are a source of serious concern to Pakistan,” he said.
“We hope, therefore, that US as an influential member of the international community can prevail upon India to work with Pakistan towards regional peace and economic prosperity.”
Kerry said that Sharif deserved a lot of credit for his leadership in reaching out to his neighbours to develop peace and understanding.
“I can’t emphasise enough that it is profoundly in the interest of Pakistan and India to move their relationship forward,” Kerry said.
“This is the hardest time to work; it means you have to put a lot of time and effort into overcoming historical mistrust, past events and enmities that come from that history.
“We have to create a pact for sustainable peace through dialogue. We applaud the efforts to do so, we encourage both Pakistan and India to re-engage and the US will do whatever it can to try to help in that effort,” Kerry added.
The US is committed to boosting its security and intelligence cooperation with Pakistan, and will continue to stand with Pakistan in its difficult hour, Kerry added.
“Just as we stand with the people of France in its difficult hour, America will continue to stand with the people of Pakistan as they build a future that is free from the threat of violent extremism,” Dawn quoted him as saying at the press conference.