US relationship with Pakistan incredibly important: White House

WASHINGTON: On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi, the White House has described the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as “incredibly important” to shared security and emphasized that United States’ relations with Pakistan and India are not at expense of the other.

“We don’t view these relationships as taking place at the expense of the other, that we can have a good relationship with India and we can have a good relationship with Pakistan,”

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor said. He was underscoring Washington’s commitment to having close ties with both the South Asian neighbors while speaking ahead
of President Obama’s January 26 visit on the occasion of Indian Republic Day.

“Obviously the US-Pakistan relationship is incredibly important to our shared security,” Rhodes remarked, adding the U.S. president could not visit Pakistan in 2011 due to
significant bilateral tensions that year.

But, he added, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is now on an upward trajectory with growing confidence in high-level engagement.

“I think both countries have acknowledged that. But we’ve moved on. Recently, Secretary (of State, John) Kerry was able to visit Pakistan. We are able to have a strategic dialogue with the Pakistanis,” he noted.

“Frankly, we believe that that relationship is on the uptick. It’s as good as it’s been in years. So we feel confident in our high-level engagement,” Rhodes added.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship will be one of the subjects to come up under discussion during Obama’s visit to India.

The deputy national security advisor said it is better for the region that Washington maintain close ties with both Islamabad and New Delhi. Washington encourages dialogue between Pakistan and India for resolution of outstanding issues.

“It’s very complicated. It’s not easy. But again, it’s better for the broader dynamic in the region if the United States has a good relationship with both countries With respect to
their bilateral issues, their pursuit of dialogue is something that the United States has consistently supported, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Rhodes praised Pakistan’s ongoing operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants.

“We have a robust security cooperation in place with Pakistan, and we’ve seen the Pakistanis take some steps in recent months to go on the offensive against some of the militant groups that have threatened the Pakistani people and Pakistani government,
including the Pakistani Taliban,” he said.

He said terrorists operating in the region threaten the United States and India while Pakistanis have suffered greatly at the hands of the militant groups.

“So when you look at the network of extremist groups that operate in that part of the world, from al-Qaeda to the Pakistani Taliban, to the Haqqani Network, to LeT, we
have significant counter terrorism cooperations with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, that has been a priority of this administration from day one,” he said.