Islamabad has rejected a joint call by the U.S. and India for Pakistan to act against perpetrators of cross-border terrorism, calling it “unwarranted, one-sided and misleading.”
In a joint statement issued by the White House on Thursday after talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a state visit to Washington, the two sides “strongly condemned cross-border terrorism and the use of terrorist proxies.”
The statement called on Pakistan “to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks.”
In its response, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the reference “politically motivated,” saying it was “surprised” by the reference given “Pakistan’s close counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S.”
“The statement shows that the cooperative spirit, so vitally needed to defeat the scourge of terrorism, has been sacrificed at the altar of geopolitical considerations,” the foreign office said in a written statement.
The ministry called India a “state sponsor of terror” that “habitually uses the terrorism bogey” to deflect attention from its human rights abuses.
Earlier in the day, other key Pakistani ministers condemned the statement. Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan’s bicameral parliament, Minister of Defense Khawaja Asif called Modi the “butcher of Gujarat,” referencing the communal riots of 2002 in which nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Modi was the chief minister of his home state of Gujarat at the time and was widely accused of turning a blind eye to the violence. According to the BBC, Modi has repeatedly rejected accusations of responsibility for the deadly riots. An Indian Supreme Court panel in 2013 ruled that it found insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
Asif blamed the U.S. for terrorism in his country, saying Pakistan “invited” it by providing support to the U.S. in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan supported the U.S. in the last 40, 45 years in two wars [in Afghanistan],” Asif said. “In both, Pakistan was a front-line state in a war that was not ours. As a result of that, we dragged terrorism into our home.”
Asif lamented there was “no acknowledgement” of the estimated 80,000 lives Pakistan claims to have lost to fighting terrorism. The country has seen a rise in terror attacks against security personnel by the Pakistani Taliban since Kabul fell to the Afghan Taliban in August 2021.
Calling on Pakistan to bring to justice those responsible for the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks in India, the White House statement said both sides reiterated the call for “concerted action against all U.N.-listed terrorist groups including al-Qaida, ISIS/Daesh [also known as the Islamic State, IS and ISIL], Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul-Mujahideen.”
Although Pakistan has put a few alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks behind bars, including one previously believed to be dead, Islamabad blames New Delhi for not cooperating in bringing the accused to justice.
Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the global powers were not paying attention to the issue of terrorism because they were “distracted” by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“Their primary focus is geopolitics, and all other problems are secondary. We believe terrorism is an issue that should not be made controversial by big powers,” Bhutto Zardari said on the floor of the National Assembly. “They shouldn’t make it a victim of geopolitics.”
During Modi’s state visit, the U.S. and India also announced a list of defense deals, including signing off on an agreement between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. to manufacture fighter jet engines in India.
Under a maritime agreement, U.S. Navy ships in the region will be able to stop in Indian shipyards for repairs, and India will buy 31 MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones worth over $3 billion and locally assemble them in a plant that U.S.-based General Atomics will build in Gujrat.
Kamran Bokhari, senior director for the Eurasian security and prosperity portfolio with the Washington-based New Lines Institute, told VOA the deals represent a pivotal moment in U.S.-India relations.
“Washington is embracing New Delhi as an emerging power and seeks to integrate it as a key component into its international security architecture,” Bokhari said in written comments to VOA.
Pakistan’s former high commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, told VOA that Pakistan should be worried about the cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan’s archrival India.
“At the end of the day, India’s [defense] capability will be used against China or Pakistan,” said Basit.
Along with a 75-year-old territorial dispute with Pakistan over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, India has also been engaged in a decades-long border dispute with China that has intensified in the last four years.
“In the U.S. calculus, it cannot stand up to Chinese malign activities in the Indo-Pacific without India — the only country that is of the size, population and location to counter China,” Tamanna Salikuddin, director of South Asia programs at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace, said in written comments to VOA.
She said such “remarkable” defense deals are usually reserved for only treaty allies, which the U.S. and India are not. This, she said, is the clearest sign for Pakistan that “the United States is firmly in a defense, economic and broader partnership with India.”
Basit believes the defense deals “are pushing South Asia to an interminable arms race” but that they would not necessarily push Pakistan closer to China.
“Diplomacy is all about creating space,” he said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister downplayed the growing U.S.-India defense ties.
“I don’t believe there is any reason for Pakistan to be insecure in its relationship with the world or its bilateral relationship with America as a result of increasingly close cooperation between [the] United States and India,” said Bhutto Zardari. (VOA/NS)