US ready ‘to launch drone strikes in Pakistan if asked’
State Department spokesman says US wants Pakistan and Indian work together to achieve common goals: US wants constructive dialogue between Islamabad, Delhi: Washington ready to help both countries bridge their differences
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The United States has declared that it was ready to launch drone strikes against militants inside Pakistan if the government there asked Washington to do so, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Tuesday.
Addressing his daily news briefing on Monday in Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said “We have partnered with our Pakistani friends to take on – to help them take on this (terrorism) challenge. We stand ready to assist, whether with this unfolding situation (Bannu prison siege by TTP) or more broadly.
Following are the excerpts from Ned Price’s news briefing regarding Pakistan and India”
QUESTION: In Pakistan, just even two days yesterday, one police station was attacked and four police officers were killed. Right now there is a counterterrorism department, which is under siege by the TTP. So do you see in coming days any over-the-horizon or under-the-horizon drones coming back to the region and targeting these terrorist groups, or situation has not gotten that worse yet?
MR PRICE: Well, first on the ongoing situation in Pakistan, we are of course aware. We’ve been closely following reports that militants have seized control of the counterterrorism centre in Bannu. We offer our deepest sympathies to those injured.
We urge those responsible for the attack to cease all acts of violence, to safely release those who remain hostage, and to end the seizure of the counterterrorism centre. Of course we refer you to the Government of Pakistan for details on this ongoing situation. But the broader point is that the Government of Pakistan is a partner when it comes to these shared challenges, including the challenge of terrorist groups – terrorist groups inside of Afghanistan, terrorist groups along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
We have partnered with our Pakistani friends to take on – to help them take on this challenge. We stand ready to assist, whether with this unfolding situation or more broadly. But this is a situation for which we’d have to refer you to Pakistani authorities.
QUESTION: Two days ago, Pakistani foreign minister has called the Indian prime minister “butcher of Gujarat” in New York. Ironically, I had asked the same question six years ago to Mr Kirby when, for the first time, Mr. Modi was coming to the US. I had said that Modi was not getting a U.S. visa now, is he going to be allowed to come to the US.
All these years down the line, don’t you think the strategic partnership with India has kind of influenced in some ways the human rights things which the US stands for, minority rights – like Modi has been treating the way Muslims are being treated since last few years? Former prime minister, even, Mr Singh, had tweeted about it.
Same thing with Ukraine, when you look at it. They’re still supplying – buying large number of oil from Russia, India. But this strategic alliance, it seemed like it has influenced or it is at least portraying the U.S. image as it is forcing U.S. to compromise on some of its human rights things that the US basically stands for.
MR PRICE: We have a global strategic partnership with India. I have just spoken to the depth of our partnership with Pakistan. These relationships stand on their own; it is not zero-sum. We see the importance – the indispensability really – of maintaining valuable partnerships with both our Indian and our Pakistani friends. Each of these relationships is – we don’t view them in relation to the other. Each of these relationships also happens to be multifaceted.
So even as we deepen our global strategic partnership with India, we are also – we also have a relationship in which we can be candid and frank with one another. Where we have disagreements or concerns, we voice those just as we would with our Pakistani friends as well.
QUESTION: Just going back, as far as US-India diplomacy and relations are concerned, Secretary Blinken is household name in India because of US-India relations and also diplomacy between the two countries.
One, I’d like to have comment that to what you think or what prime minister current – Secretary Blinken thinks about US-India relations. But also, at the same time, last week, and my friend said, and the United Nations Security Council heated argument took place between the two countries – between the – Indian and Pakistan, also between the two foreign ministers India and Pakistan blaming to each other. Indian foreign minister said that about terrorism Pakistan is supporting terrorism, and then Pakistani prime – foreign minister said so and so and so and “butcher” and calling names to Prime Minister Modi. And I think Foreign Minister Bilawal, he will be here in Washington tomorrow, or he’s already here and is taking – having many engagements. My question is: He called names to Prime Minister Modi, and back home in Pakistan. His foreign minister called – threatened India with nuclear weapons, that we have nuclear weapons and we – they are not just to show them off and we can use them. What I am asking you – when Secretary Blinken is engaged with both countries – so what do you think now? And what do you think about this and how he’s going to engage with many regional countries when he’s visit on that? The situation is very heated between India and Pakistan also back home, so where do we stand now as far as US concerned?
MR PRICE: So a couple things. Number one, we have, as I said before, a global strategic partnership with India. Have also spoken about the deep partnership we have with Pakistan. These relationships in our mind are not zero-sum. We don’t view them in relation to one another. Each of them is indispensable to us and to the promotion and the pursuit of the shared goals that we have with India, the shared goals that we have with Pakistan, the shared goals that all three of us share.
The fact that we have partnerships with both countries makes us – of course leaves us not wanting to see a war of words between India and Pakistan. We would like to see constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan. We think that is for the betterment of the Pakistani people, for the Indian people. There is much work that we can do together bilaterally. There are differences that, of course, need to be addressed between India and Pakistan. The United States stands ready to assist as a partner to both.
QUESTION: Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan launched massive attacks against Pakistani security forces and Pakistani civilians. As you’ve recently talked about the current situation right now and when – what kind of assistance you can offer to Pakistan to crush this terrorist group? Because we have seen that United States has the ability to track down these terrorist groups and wipe them out, like we see Al-Qaeda’s leadership. So what kind of assistance you can offer to Pakistan to crush this Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan?
MR PRICE: Well, of course, Pakistan is an important security partner. There are groups that are present in Afghanistan, in the Afghan-Pakistan border region that present a clear threat as we’re seeing not only to Pakistan but potentially to countries and people beyond. So we’re in regular dialogue with our Pakistani partners. We are prepared to help them take on the threats they face, but I think the details of that cooperation are best left in diplomatic channels.
QUESTION: You just spoke about Pakistan-India, just not about the war of words, their tension on the border. What kind of message you will give to the leadership of both the countries to bring peace to the region?
MR PRICE: Well, I think the message is, just as I related to your colleague, both Pakistan and India are partners of the United States. As with any of our partners, we want to see constructive relations between them. It’s always of concern when we see escalation in tensions, when we see escalation in words, in dialogue. We want to see countries – certainly, we want to see our partners work together to achieve common ends.
QUESTION: Sir, the main reason of tensions between two countries is the India-occupied Kashmir – you know about it – former President Trump offered the role of mediation between India and Pakistan to solve the issue of Kashmir. What is the policy of current administration on Kashmir?
MR PRICE: Our policy is that this is an issue that needs to be addressed by India and Pakistan. We are prepared to support if the parties want that, but this is a question for India and Pakistan to adjudicate.