White House Petition a Legal Matter Notes the US, Urges Indo-Pak Dialogue

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Washington, DC – The United States this week reiterated it’s request to both India and Pakistan to stop rhetoric against each other and go back to the diplomatic negotiating table. Moreover, an online White House petition asking for Pakistan to be declared as a state sponsor of terrorism recently crossed 100,000 signatures, thus qualifying to get a response from the Barack Obama administration.

On the ongoing efforts by Indians for a petition created on September 21, for submission to the White House asking to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, Mark Toner, State Department Deputy Spokesperson termed it a legal matter, saying, “That’s (designating state sponsor of terrorism) a very specific process and determination that involves a legal process and assessment.”

“Our focus with Pakistan is to enhance their capability, as I just said, to deal with a terrorist threat on their soil. They’re fighting a serious and sustained campaign against violent extremism,” said Toner at the daily press briefing.

After the political leadership from both the nuclear-powered neighbors gave accusation filled ‎speeches at the United Nations General Assembly, Toner told journalists, “I heard the rhetoric. I think our longstanding position is that we believe India and Pakistan really stand to benefit from the normalization of relations between them and practical cooperation between them, and we encourage both India and Pakistan to pursue and engage in direct dialogue that is aimed at reducing tensions.”

Military Games

Asked about the ongoing military exercises between US-India and Russia-Pakistan, Toner at the daily press briefing said, “If the insinuation is that there’s some kind of tit-for-tat or Great Game being played out here, that’s not at all the case. Look, we’ve long said with regard to Pakistan, with regard to India, with regard to the region, there’s no zero-sum game here.”

Toner stressed “very close relations with India,” saying, “We have a deep and broad bilateral relationship and multilateral relationship … work our multilateral issues with India. They are the world’s largest democracy and we share … a very similar vision of the world. And we obviously have very close trade and economic ties with India, and also that extends to security cooperation.

Urging Pakistan to do more to rein in terror outfits operating out of its territory, Toner said, “We want to see Pakistan better able to respond to the threat that terrorism poses both domestically for Pakistan but also the fact that there are terrorist groups on – that seek refuge or asylum or shelter in Pakistan’s territory.”

SAARC Decision

On the latest decision by India to not attend the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting in Nepal, the US referred to the Narendra Modi government in Delhi for comments on its decision but on rising tensions between Pakistan and India, Toner said, “It’s in both countries’ mutual interest to put aside tensions, work towards putting aside tensions and de-escalating tensions, and establish more normal channels of communication.”

In addition to India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan on Wednesday pulled out of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad.

Referring to cross-border terrorist activities in Afghanistan and India by Pakistan based terror-outfits, Toner said, “We do believe that they’re making progress, that they’re taking steps to counter terrorist violence, but at the same time we’ve been very clear that they need to target all militant groups, including those that target Pakistan’s neighbors, and close all safe havens.”

“We continue to put pressure on Pakistan to respond to those groups who are, quote/unquote, “seeking safe haven on Pakistan’s borders,” that – who are intent on carrying out attacks elsewhere in the region,” added Toner.

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