In its strongest remarks yet on the attack in Uri, the US called on Pakistan to “combat and delegitimize” terrorist outfits operating from its soil, including Jaish-e-Muhammad, the group India blames for the strike that killed 18 soldiers on September 18.
In a phone call to her Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, US national security adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday offered greater help on matters of counter-terrorism and designating those behind the Pakistan-based militant groups targeting Indian interest as terrorists.
“Pakistan (should) take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates,” Rice said.
“Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates,” the White House said in a readout of the phone call.
Rice’s statement taps into a growing sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with Pakistan, a non-NATO ally and a major beneficiary of financial aid and arms supplies, and marks a subtle shift in thinking in the US administration.
The statement also comes amid a major stand-off between the neighbouring countries, with India attempting to diplomatically isolate Pakistan.
“It were as if Rice was rebutting (Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz) Sharif here,” said an Indian diplomat, referring to Sharif’s attack on India in his speech at the recently concluded 71st UN General Assembly.
Rice’s comments bear further significance being issued amid a full-blown foreign policy crisis in South Asia, forced by India’s boycott of the next Saarc summit.
Her reaffirmation that “President Obama’s commitment to redouble our (US) efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world” is being seen as an endorsement of India’s position.
US’ earlier response were considered insipid by some in India, given the context of terrorism is a shared challenge.
In its first response, the US had said, “The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir during the early morning of September 18. We extend our condolences to the victims and their families. The United States is committed to our strong partnership with the Indian government to combat terrorism.”
It conspicuously didn’t name Pakistan though.
The US followed it up shortly with another statement saying it was urging Pakistan to help in the investigation, implying Islamabad had leverage in the matter and could help.