Virtually supporting India's precondition for any peace talks with Pakistan, a top US diplomat today said Islamabad needs to do more to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack, which claimed over 170 lives including six Americans.
Robert Blake, now tipped to become the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department, told a powerful Congressional Committee that as far as Indo-US relationship is concerned a lot depends on the actions being taken by Pakistan on 26/11 attacks.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Blake, in his confirmation hearing told Senators that the Mumbai attack has been a major setback to the Indo-Pak peace process.
Responding to a question on Mumbai attack, Blake acknowledged Pakistan needs to do more with respect to it. "They've taken some steps to bring cases against nine of the suspects in Mumbai attacks. But now it's important that they prosecute them," Blake said.
"I believe that concerted action by the Pakistanis against not only those suspects but against Lashkar-e-Taiba would enable the two countries to regain some of the progress and restart some of the progress that they've made in the composite dialogue and other areas of their cooperation," Blake argued.
"Prior to the attacks in Mumbai, the governments of India and Pakistan were making quite good progress in forging closer relations across a broad range of fronts. They had something called the 'composite dialogue', which had a number of components to it to try to address some of the most ticklish issues in Indo-Pak relations," he observed.
Blake said, "the US and India have strengthened counter terrorism cooperation in response to those attacks. The United States helped in the investigation. And we will continue to be involved in that."
He said India would have a very important role to play in areas like trade. The recent trilateral meeting between the US, Pakistan and Afghan Presidents one of the important agreements that was reached was on transit trade.
"So we hope that the two countries later this year will be able to reach a final agreement on transit trade. That, in turn, will enable a much greater exchange and a much higher flow of goods and services, potentially from the subcontinent up into Central Asia and certainly would benefit most of those countries tremendously. So that's one area where I think there are opportunities for progress," he said.
However he stressed that the improvement of relationship between the two countries can only be done by Islamabad and New Delhi. "The US, as a friend of both countries, has always offered advice and ideas, and we will continue to do so," he said.
Till recently Blake was the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka. He has also served as the deputy chief de mission at the US Embassy in New Delhi.