WASHINGTON: Pakistan is a partner in the fight against terrorism and not a state that sponsors terrorism, said the US State Department while elaborating on a statement by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who accused Pakistan of having links with terrorist groups.
At a discussion at the US National Defence University here on Tuesday, Mr Panetta said that Pakistan had links with Lashkar-e Taiba and the Haqqani network, which had complicated its relationship with the United States.
Later, Washington-based Indian journalists raised the issue at a State Department briefing, arguing that after Mr Panetta’s statement the US had no option but to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.
“I think Secretary Panetta spoke to our concern about how these two organisations operate and any relationship that they may have with Pakistan, which is a subject that we talk about with Pakistan, which is a different issue than a state being a sponsor of terrorism itself,” said the department’s spokesman Victoria Nuland while explaining the US position on this issue.
“No,” she said when a journalist asked if she believed Secretary Panetta was accusing the government of Pakistan of having ties to the two terrorist groups.
“Why Pakistan maintains a relationship with the terrorist organisation? What level of relations the US has under your own laws against Pakistan and what actions you are taking with it?” asked an Indian journalist.
The State Department official noted that the United States had had a ‘robust dialogue’ with Pakistan on counter-terrorism issues, had continued to strengthen its approach to this subject and had collaborated with Pakistan in fighting terrorism.
“Obviously, these two organisations that Secretary Panetta spoke about are on the list of subjects that we talk about together.
But beyond that, I don’t think I’m going to get into the substance,” she said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed similar views on this issue during the NDU debate where Secretary Panetta accused Pakistan of having ties with Lashkar and the Haqqani network.
“There are certain attitudes or beliefs that the Pakistanis have which are rooted in their own experience, just like we have our own set of such convictions,” she said when asked to comment on Pakistan’s reluctance to follow Washington’s strategy for fighting terrorism.