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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has said that it would be wonderful if Islamabad and New Delhi got along instead of once again facing a “horrible situation” triggered by the recent suicide attack in India-occupied Kashmir.

At a separate news briefing on Tuesday afternoon, the US State Department urged Pakistan and India to avoid further escalation.

“I have seen it. I have watched. We will have a comment at the appropriate time,” said President Trump in reply to a question on the consequences of the Pulwama attack. “It would be wonderful if they [Pakistan and India] got along.”

At a White House news briefing on Tuesday evening, the US president had said he had received “a lot of reports” on the attack and its impact. “It seems like that was a horrible situation, but we are getting reports. We will have a statement to put out.”

At the State Department, deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino noted that the perpetrator of this “heinous act” claimed allegiance to “a UN-designated, Pakistan-based” terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. “We’re committed to working with the Indian government to combat terrorism in all of its forms,” he added.

Noting that Jaish was a UN-designated terrorist organisation, he said: “We call on all countries to uphold their responsibilities pursuant to the United Nations Security Council resolutions to deny safe haven and support for terrorists.”

Asked what specific actions the US would like Pakistan to take, Mr Palladino said Washington was in touch with both Pakistan and Indian governments and had conveyed its “strong support for India as it confronts this terrorism”.

The US and India, he said, had “a close, cooperative, … security relationship,” that “includes counterterrorism operations.”

Indicating that the US would support India’s efforts to place Jaish and its leaders on a UN list of global terrorists, Mr Palladino said: “We’re committed to working with India, the Indian government, and on these counter-terrorism efforts, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including at the United Nations.”

He also spoke briefly on US communications with Pakistan. “As far as Pakistan goes, we’ve been in contact with Pakistan on this issue. We urge Pakistan to fully cooperate with the investigation into the attack and to punish anyone responsible.”

Mr Palladino said he could not disclose the level of contacts with India and Pakistan, but underlined the need for “countries to uphold their responsibilities pursuant to the United Nations Security Council to deny safe haven and support for terrorists”. This includes “freezing assets without delay” and other actions, he added.

When a journalist suggested that Pakistan was not taking action against the alleged perpetrators even though, as he put it, India had provided evidence of their involvement, Mr Palladino reiterated his call to all countries to deny safe havens and support for terrorists.

The US official also said that he did not “have anything” on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visits to the two countries and he did not know if the prince was mediating between them.

“I don’t know,” said Mr Palladino when asked to comment on Iran’s accusation that terrorists from Pakistan had carried out attacks inside Iran.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2019