Washington: In a strong message, US President Barack Obama told Pakistan today that it "can and must" take more effective action against terrorist groups operating from its soil by "delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling" terror networks there.
"Pakistan has an opportunity to show that it is serious about delegitimizing, disrupting and dismantling terrorist networks. In the region and around the world, there must be zero tolerance for safe havens and terrorists must be brought to justice," Obama told Press Trust of India in an interview in Washington during which he answered a wide range of questions covering Indo-US ties, terrorism and outcome of the Paris climate change summit.
Describing the terror attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot as "another example of the inexcusable terrorism that India has endured for too long", Obama gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after the attack.
"Both leaders are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region," he asserted in this third interview to PTI.
On the Pathankot attack, Obama said, "We join India in condemning the attack, saluting the Indians who fought to prevent more loss of life and extending our condolences to the victims and their families. Tragedies like this also underscore why the US and India continue to be such close partners in fighting terrorism."
Obama was of the view that Sharif recognised that insecurity in Pakistan is a threat to its own stability and that of the region. After the December, 2014 school massacre in Peshawar he had vowed to target all militants, regardless of their agenda or affiliation.
"That is the right policy. Since then, we have seen Pakistan take action against several specific groups. We have also seen continued terrorism inside Pakistan such as the recent attack on the university in north west Pakistan," he said.
America can be India's best partner: Obama
Voicing his belief that the Indo-US relationship can be one of the defining partnerships of the century, Obama said that PM Modi shared his enthusiasm for a strong partnership and "we have developed a friendship and close working relationship, including our conversations on the new secure lines between our offices".
Asked if the relationship has achieved its full potential, the President replied, "Absolutely not."
Referring to bilateral ties with India, Obama said his visit last year reflected how the ties between the two countries have been transformed.
"Since I took office, I have worked to deepen our cooperation with India across the board and I continue to believe that the relationship between India and the United States can be one of the defining partnerships of this century. However, common values -- two democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies--make us natural partners. We are linked by the ties of family--millions of Indian Americans," the US President said.
He said his hope was that his visit could help spark a new era of cooperation between the two countries and "I believe it did".
"The past 12 months have been a year of progress across the three priorities that I identified in my speech to the Indian people at Siri Fort. We're deepening our partnerships to promote the development that lifts up our people, including rural Indians-helping farmers, boost their yields and working expanding access to electricity and clean water," Obama said.
He said both the countries continue to expand the economic partnerships that help reduce poverty and create opportunity, pushing bilateral trade to a record levels, expanding hi-tech collaborations and increasing students exchanges, including for girls and women who deserve the same education and opportunities and boys and men.
Obama said the two countries were doing even more as global partners including more military exercises, greater cooperation in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region and working together to confront climate change.
"I continue to believe that America can be India's best partner. So I hope future generations can look back at this moment and see that this was the time when the world's largest democracy became true global partners. In my final year as President, continuing to deepen our ties will continue to be one of my foreign policy priorities," Obama said.
With PTI Inputs