Mark Toner’s comments came on the eve of US defence secretary Carter’s India trip
New Delhi: TheUShasnudgedNew DelhiandIslamabadtocontinuewith the peace process and engage in a direct dialogue to reduce tension, after Pakistan made contradictory statements on talks with India. Pakistan high commissioner to India Abdul Basit said here last Thursday that the talks between the neighboursweresuspended,evoking a sharp reaction from India.
“…we believe and it’s been our longstanding position that India and Pakistan stand to benefit from the normalisation of relations and practical cooperation, and we encourage them to do so, to engage in direct dialogue that’s aimed at reducing tensions between the two governments and two countries,” US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark C Toner said in Washington in response to a question on Basit’s comments. “And, we strongly support those efforts, because we believe it, obviously, will lead to greater stability and peace in the region,” Toner said.
Toner’s comments, on Friday, came on the eve of defence secretary Ashton Carter’s India trip. Ahead of the visit, Carter has described India as a global partner and Pakistan, essentially, as an ally on counter-terror efforts. When asked about the arrest of an alleged Indian agent in Pakistan’s Balochistan, Toner said: “I am aware of the reports about the ar- rest. I don’t have anything –any details of the arrest.”
The US diplomat also steered clear of Pakistan’s allegations of human rights violations in J&K. “Look, our policy regarding Kashmir has not changed. As we’ve long said, the pace, scope, and character of those discussions or any discussions on Kashmir must be for the two sides to determine. We support any and all positive stepsthatIndiaandPakistancantake to forge closer relations.” On Thursday, high commissioner Basit had said: “As of now there is no date for the foreign secretary talks. I think you can say for now that the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue is suspended. Let’s see if we can commence the process.” Reacting to it, Ministry of External Affairs said the high commissioner had been contradicted by his own foreign ministry spokesperson who on Thursday evening itself said the “countries are in contact” to work out dates.
National security adviser AK Doval dialled his Pakistani counterpart on Friday and sought clarification on Islamabad’s position on the issue. Government officials who did not wishtobeidentifiedtoldETthatBasit was aligning his position with hardliners including the Pak Army. “It appearsthatheisoutof loopandhisaim is to cast shadow on the process and test India,” a source said. However, there is expectation in the establishment here that the process of engagement with Pakistan will move forward, but gradually and step by step.