(REUTERS – 8TH MAY) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday (May urged Pakistan to do more to make sure its territory is not used as a launchpad for militant activity, underlining the prickly relationship with a key ally in the war against insurgents.
Clinton made the comments during a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna. India has repeatedly accused its nuclear-armed rival of dragging its feet on cracking down on militants operating on its soil.
“We look to the government of Pakistan to do more. It needs to make sure that its territory is not used as launching pads for terrorist attacks anywhere, including inside of Pakistan,” Clinton said.
Both Washington and New Delhi have sharply criticised Pakistan for not detaining Hafiz Saeed, who is suspected of masterminding a three-day rampage by gunmen on India’s financial capital, Mumbai, in 2008.
India is furious that Pakistan has not detained Saeed despite handing over evidence against him.
“Recent attacks in Kabul highlight, once again, the need for elimination of terrorist sanctuaries in the neighbourhood and the need for stronger action from Pakistan on terrorism, including on bringing to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai terrorist attacks. We also discussed our respective relations withPakistan,” said Krishna.
Saeed is believed to have founded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the 1990s, the militant group whom Indiablames for the Mumbai attack. He denies any wrongdoing and links to militants.
After a reward was announced, Saeed last month taunted the United States by holding a news conference at a hotel just 40 minutes’ drive away from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, calling the bounty “laughable”.
“The 166 people killed in Mumbai during that horrific terrorist attack in 2008 included six Americans, so as part of our ‘rewards for justice’ programme we have offered a 10 million dollars reward that could lead to the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Saeed for his role in those attacks. Our ‘rewards for justice’ offer demonstrates our seriousness in obtaining additional information that can withstand judicial scrutiny and that leads to arrest or conviction and brings the perpetrators and planners of the Mumbai attacks to justice,” Clinton added on Tuesday.
Islamabad and Washington have fallen out over the past year due to a raft of issues, notably American drone strikes on Pakistan from Afghanistan and a unilateral U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
The fact that bin Laden was hiding in a Pakistani garrison town was seized upon by India as proof thatIslamabad was dragging its feet on cracking down on militants.
Clinton also called for an increase in bilateral trade between the two countries.
“We have to continue expanding trade and investment between our countries. We have come a long way, when I first visited India in 1995, trade stood at 9 billion dollars and this year we expect to surpass 100 billion dollars. But I truly believe that there is much more potential to unleash, we should be working toward having one of the world’s largest trading relationships and we need to continue to reduce barriers and open our markets to greater trade and investments,” Clinton said.
U.S. exports to India have increased to more than 21 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 from less than 4 billion U.S. dollars in 2001, according to the Commerce Department.
India wants the private sector to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure over the next five years. TheUnited States wants a piece of the action and is encouraging domestic companies to invest in sectors such as road building, railways and energy.