US opposes linking Pak aid to cross-border attacks

BANGLADESH-USA/

We do not want restrictions to make it impossible to achieve the goals that we all share: Richard Boucher.—Reuters

By Anwar Iqbal
Friday, 15 May, 2009 | 02:41 AM PST |www.dawn.com

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration does not favour a Congressional legislation that would link US aid to Pakistan to the elimination of cross-borer attacks into India, a senior US official said on Thursday.

‘We do not want restrictions to make it impossible to achieve the goals that we all share,’ Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told a briefing in Washington.

The US House of Representatives recently called for such a condition for tripling the non-military aid to Pakistan.

The House version of the aid bill requires Pakistan to prevent cross-border attacks by Kashmiri militant groups to qualify for US assistance.

Although Washington does not favour linking aid to this condition, US officials say that the Obama administration did raise this issue in last week’s trilateral summit involving the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The talks led to a commitment by both Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militant activities against each other and against other South Asian neighbours.

Mr Boucher, while opposing new restrictions on US aid to Pakistan, made it obvious that Washington expected Islamabad to stop all cross-border attacks into India.

Mr Boucher said that the United States had alerted Pakistan’s government  

that it needed to eliminate the groups that carried out such attacks.

‘It is important for Pakistan to stop the groups that carry out terrorism in India, absolutely,’ he said.

Addressing South Asian journalists in Washington, he said: ‘Threat to Pakistan from terrorism comes not just from groups fighting in Afghanistan and the groups that are up in the tribal areas. The groups that attack India present a danger to Pakistan as well.’

He observed that the way such terrorist groups were carrying out attacks endangered Pakistan and its relations with India.

Mr Boucher, who served as Washington’s pointsman for South Asia for three years and is about to be replaced by another career diplomat Robert Blake, said this week’s actions in Swat and the adjacent valleys showed a greater commitment to combating terrorists.

‘We have seen this week not only stronger military operation but we have seen coalescing of political support,’ he said.

‘Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and some other leaders have come together and said, ‘we are going to fight together, we are going to work to clear the Swat valley of the militants and we are going to go forward with necessary assistance to people, to take care of the people displaced by the fighting and to start the rebuilding process.’’

Talking about the US role in resolving political crises in Pakistan, Mr Boucher told Dawn on Wednesday that while the United States played a supporting role, ‘all major decisions were taken by the Pakistanis, not Americans’.

He said the US initially opposed the campaign to restore Chief Justice because it was ‘also very political’.

The US, he said, supported the idea of an independent judiciary ‘without endorsing the politics involved’.

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