New Delhi: US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman Thursday said Washington has “no interest” in going back to the days hyphenating India and Pakistan, and that her trip to Islamabad is only for “specific and narrow purpose”.
Sherman, who was speaking at an event in Mumbai during the last day of her two-day visit to India, also said her Pakistan visit is for a “particular set of reasons” and is not meant to once again rebuild a broader relationship with the country.
“We (the US) don’t see ourselves building our broad relationship with Pakistan and we have no interest in returning to the days of a hyphenated India, Pakistan. That’s not where we are, that’s not where we are going to be,” Sherman said.
“But we all need to know what’s going on in Afghanistan. We all need to be of one mind in the approach to the Taliban. We all need to make sure that we have the capabilities that we need to ensure everybody’s security, including India’s, of course. So I am going to have some very specific conversations, continuing conversations that Secretary (Antony) Blinken has had (with Pakistan),” she added.
US Secretary of State Blinken met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last month.
Sherman also said she will be sharing the information from her trip to Islamabad with India, as “we share information back and forth between our governments”.
Lauding India’s role as the president of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the month of August, Sherman stressed, “I want to congratulate and herald the tremendous job that India did as President of UNSC — really a first rate job, great leadership.”
‘None of us are taking Taliban at their word’
On India’s concerns about Afghanistan turning into a hotbed of terror, Sherman said, “US profoundly appreciates India’s concerns about the potential of terrorism to spill over from Afghanistan into the wider region. Our two countries have a long history of working together to prevent terrorism.”
Sherman also said India and the US “continue to coordinate closely” on the situation in Afghanistan.
“While the US military mission in Afghanistan has ended, our commitment to the Afghan people and to preventing Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists has not,” she said.
On the issue of engaging with the Taliban, the Deputy Secretary of State said the US is working with all its allies not just help Afghan people but to also “hold the Taliban accountable to the commitments they have made” on human rights.
She said since 15 August, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla has participated regularly in video conferences that the US has held along with other countries in order to “coordinate our responses to the situation in Afghanistan”.
“None of us have taken the Taliban at their word at any point in the last weeks and none of us will take the Taliban at their word going forward. Their words must be followed by action to prevent reprisals, build an inclusive government, allow women to work, girls to get their education and much more to end any possible terrorism,” Sherman said.
She added, “And so far they have fallen short of their commitments.”
During her visit, Sherman met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Shringla Wednesday.
AUKUS, Quad, China
Sherman, who also visited the Western Naval Command Thursday, said “US is a Pacific power”.
Talking about the Indo-Pacific strategic construct and hinting at the recent controversy between the US, France and Australia over AUKUS, Sherman said, “US is a Pacific nation” which, she added, “people elsewhere have forgotten”.
“We are a Pacific power, not only because of our geography but because of our economy, our culture and history and our deep network of alliances and partnerships, across Asia and in the Pacific,” she added.
She also said AUKUS, Quad, and the India-US defence partnership are all part of one joint plan and are “not competing with each other”, adding that “AUKUS is going to be a game changer”.
“We are proud to be major defence partners with India. Our military-to-military relationship is strong and growing. US and India concluded four major enabling defence agreements in recent years and we are looking forward to expanding cooperation in multiple areas including through more information sharing, joint and multilateral exercises and cooperation in the maritime space.
Speaking on India and China, Sherman said the rise of the two countries has been much different from each other.
“India’s incredible rise over the last decades has been enabled by the rules-based international order. So too has the People’s Republic of China’s. But the two countries have taken very different paths,” she said.
Sherman added, “Today Beijing is seeking to undermine the very system that benefitted them for decades … To bully and coerce other nations. That’s why it’s important for democracies like India and the US to demonstrate how we deliver results for our people.”
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)