The US wants Pakistan to ensure that terror groups do not enjoy “safe haven” in the country.
Alice Wells, assistant secretary in charge of South Asia in the US State Department, told reporters, “We are urging the government to do more to bring pressure to bear against these organizations’ externally-oriented terrorist groups.”
Wells, who arrives in New Delhi on Thursday, said Washington wants Pakistan to “reinforce” the message to the Taliban that they should get to the negotiating table. “We’ve encouraged Pakistan to take stronger steps to ensure that the Taliban either come to the negotiating table or are expelled back into Afghanistan rather than enjoy safe haven outside of the country.”
Wells will have talks with Indian officials in preparation for the forthcoming 2+2 dialogue here on September 6. She will also attend an Indian Ocean conference organised by Ram Madhav’s India Foundation in Hanoi on August 27-28, which will also be attended by Sushma Swaraj, foreign minister.
In a sign that the US and India are moving closer together on the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean strategy, Wells also said, “We’re expanding our diplomatic engagement with the Indian Ocean Rim Association, or IORA … lending its expertise to the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, to pursue collective action on regional maritime security issues.”
Wells’ remarks coincided with the release of a new report on Indian Ocean regional security by four think-tanks from the Quad countries of US, Japan, Australia and India. Among 20 recommendations, the think tanks suggested that Australia, India, Japan and the US should should work with partner countries to oppose the establishment of permanent Chinese military bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
A list of 20 policy recommendations for the Quad countries by the think tanks said, Quad nations should work in the IOR to help maintain independent security and economic policies by supporting high-quality alternatives to unilateral Chinese investments and “political alignments with regional objectives”.
“Australia, India, Japan and the US should should work with partner countries to oppose establishment of permanent Chinese military bases in the IOR. This should include demonstrating to China that its security needs can be met through cooperation and consultation with other nations and without recourse to a disruptive unilateral military presence,” the report said. The think tanks, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan, Vivekananda India Foundation (VIF), Australia National University, and Sasakawa Peace Foundation, USA, came together to form the ‘Quadripartite Commission on Indian Ocean Regional Security’. The group strongly recommended that India should bring Australia into the malabar naval exercises which India has resisted until now. “Australia, India, Japan and the US should enhance sea land defence capabilities in the Indian Ocean.” It said.
In Washington, Alice Wells told journalists that part of the US’ new Indo-Pacific strategy is a “Bay of Bengal Initiative, which will enhance the capacity of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to share shipping information with other partners in the region such as India to improve detection and response to emerging threats.” She said the administration had asked the US Congress to approve additional security assistance to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal to take this forward.