The US on Tuesday acknowledged that its ally Pakistan keeps ties with anti-India terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, but said Washington had "no choice" but to maintain its relations with Islamabad if it has to fight al Qaeda in the region.
In possibly the first such hard-hitting statement on Pakistani establishment's links with terror networks by the top Pentagon official, defense secretary Leon Panetta said the US is concerned by this and such issues make ties with Islamabad "complicated".
"We're concerned with... the relationships that Pakistan has, what makes this complicated, is that they have relationships with the Haqqanis, and the Haqqani tribe are going across the border and attacking our forces in Afghanistan, and it's pretty clear that there's a relationship there," he said.
He further went on to acknowledge that Pakistan continues to have ties with the LeT which has targetted India on more than one occasion.
"There's a relationship with LeT. And, you know, this is a group that goes into India and threatens attacks there, it has conducted attacks there," Panetta said in response to a question at National Defense University.
India has long blamed Pakistan for supporting anti-India terror groups, including the LeT which orchestrated the 2008 Mumbai attacks, despite being a close US ally in the 'war on terror'.
However, Panetta and secretary of state Hillary Clinton, argued in a joint public appearance that it was not possible to cut off relationship with Pakistan as the nuclear-armed country provided some crucial cooperation in fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Panetta also cited other difficulties that have crept up in US-Pak ties including the visa problem.
"In addition to that, you know, they don't provide visas. In the relationship there are bumps and grinds to try to work it through," he said.
Clinton, however, said the US and Pakistan were partners but given the recurrent differences between the two, it took a "lot of dialogue" to keep things smooth and working.
"... they don't always see the world the way we see the world, and they don't always cooperate with us on what we think -- and I'll be very blunt about this -- is in their interests," she said.
"You know, I mean, it's not like we are coming to Pakistan and encouraging them to do things that will be bad for Pakistan, but they often don't follow what our logic is as we make those cases to them. So it takes a lot of dialogue," Clinton said.
However, she said there was little choice before the US but to carry forward the relationship despite the "bumps and grinds" as it was fighting a war in the region.
"Yet there is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. Why? Because we're fighting a war there. Because we are fighting al Qaeda there, and they do give us, you know, some cooperation in that effort.
"Because they do represent an important force in that region. Because they do happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons," she said.
"So for all of those reasons, we have got to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. And it's going to be complicated. It's going to be ups and downs," Clinton said to which Panetta agreed.