India's economic activities in Afghanistan pose "no direct threat" to Pakistan, a senior US official has said, asserting that Islamabad needs to change some of its "unhelpful behaviour" by cooperating with America to achieve the counter-terrorism goals in the region.
US President Donald Trump has sought an enhanced role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan as he ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy on Monday.
Trump had said that a critical part of his South Asia policy was to further develop America's strategic partnership with India. He also sternly warned Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists.
"While we welcome India's role in Afghanistan, it has a lot of goodwill, they are doing developmental projects. They have given USD 3 billion in aid and US appreciates that and wants that to continue. But again we do not see that a direct threat to Pakistan," the White House official said on condition of anonymity.
"I am not going to discuss the steps and measures that the US is considering pursuing with Pakistan," a White House official said when asked about the critical statements coming from Pakistan after Trump's South Asia strategy announcement.
"There is some frustration in Pakistan. We just want to emphasise that Pakistan really has the choice here. It can choose to cooperate with the US and change some of the unhelpful behaviours. That is very much in its interest. The US is not taking a tougher approach just to make Pakistani lives more difficult," the official said yesterday.
The approach is aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan which will benefit Pakistan as well, he said. "We do have areas where we cooperate that will continue. We are going to demand more action against terror groups," he said, adding that he will not discuss the actual tool that the Trump administration plans to deploy for Pakistan to change its "unhelpful behaviour".
While Pakistan is an important partner and a priority for the region, "it also must take decisive action against terrorist groups" that are a threat to US interests.
"As the president said, Pakistan has much to gain by partnering with the US, but has much to lose if it fails to take actions against terrorist groups. We recognise that we have many common interests with Pakistan and common enemies. We also recognise the sacrifices that Pakistan has made. However, no partnership will be able to survive until terrorists were directly targeting US service members. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate that it is willing to assist the US in its counter terrorism goals in the region," he said.
The US recognises that Pakistan has legitimate security interest in the future of Afghanistan and that what happens in Afghanistan impacts Pakistan, he said.
India is a valuable and influential partner and that the interest with India goes beyond South Asia, he said. India is making important contribution to the development of Afghanistan as well as helping to build democratic institutions, the official said, adding that the US "looks forward to continuing and expanding that involvement".
"When we talk about India continuing its economic assistance in Afghanistan, we are by no means discounting Pakistan's interest in the region and do not think Pakistan should worry about India's economic involvement in Afghanistan. Acknowledging India's role in Afghanistan is not going to impact our ability to work with Pakistan. We recognise Pakistan's legitimate interest in Afghanistan. We would be working with them and at the same time make it clear that support to terrorist groups is not the best way to serve their interests in the region," he said.
The senior official said that while developing the strategy, the US did consider the threat posed to ground lines of communication to Afghanistan that runs through Pakistan if India got more involved in Afghanistan. The ground line of communication in Pakistan is very important to the US. "So, we do count on those line of communications in Pakistan," the official added.