US says it supports direct discussions between Pakistan and India

WASHINGTON: The United States has said that it supports Pakistan and India having a direct discussion with each other, but it believes the two countries should decide the pace, scope and character of the talks.

At a daily news conference in Washington on Thursday, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the US values its essential relationships with both — Pakistan and India. “As we have said, we support direct discussions between Pakistan and India, but the pace, scope and character should be determined by those two countries, not by us,” he added.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had initiated a move recently by sending a congratulatory message to his Indian counterpart on his third straight election victory and expressed the desire to improve sour ties between the two neighbouring states.

The US official also commented on a recent statement by Pakistan’s US Ambassador Masood Khan, who pointed out that TTP terrorists were using American weapons against Pakistan, acquired in Afghanistan. He urged Washington to provide weapons to Pakistan to effectively combat these terrorists.

“The United States and Pakistan have a shared interest in combating threats to regional security,” said Miller when asked to comment on the ambassador’s statement. “We partner with Pakistan in security through our high-level counterterrorism dialogue, including several counterterrorism capacity-building programmes, and we support a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements,” he added.

The United States, he said, also maintains regular communication with Pakistani leaders as part of a bilateral partnership on counterterrorism issues. “And we will continue to discuss regional security in detail, including through our annual counterterrorism dialogue and other bilateral consultations,” he added.

Relations between the two countries worsened after India revoked Article 370 on August 5, 2019, removing Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and splitting it into two Union Territories. Pakistan strongly reacted by downgrading diplomatic ties and expelling the Indian envoy.

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