Pakistani religious organisations protest against U.S. President Donald Trump holding a representation of the US flag that reads “Down with America,” in Lahore

Trump regime places the onus on Islamabad, says can’t expect India to talk before action against LeT, JeM

The Donald Trump administration is not satisfied with the measures taken by Pakistan in recent months to crack down on terrorist groups, a senior U.S official has said. “So far, these steps have been reversible, superficial, and steps that we have actually seen them take in the past, in periods of high pressure,” the official told The Hindu in an exclusive conversation on background.

The official said the U.S was concerned about tensions between India and Pakistan, “two nuclear armed states,” but added that the onus was on Pakistan to create conditions conducive for talks and improvement in relations.

The official said the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary in Paris was yet to take a decision on action against Islamabad on the question of terrorism financing. “My understanding is that the FATF discussions are ongoing, FATF is aimed at ensuring that the countries are implementing the statutes and the laws that are necessary to counter terrorist financing, money laundering and those sort of things…” the official said, refusing the elaborate more, since the meetings were still on.

‘Zero Tolerance Towards Terrorism’

The Trump administration has zero tolerance towards terrorism, and terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan, said the official. “President Trump has been clear that we need to see decisive action, not superficial action and half measures.. but decisive action against terrorist militants in Pakistan,” said the official.

The official said the U.S had been “very clear with Pakistan about our expectations.”

“We have been very specific and detailed in what we expect Pakistan to do, in our numerous visits of senior officials as well as several phone calls between senior military officials on both sides. So I think Pakistan understands what we are looking for. Unfortunately we have not seen the strategic shift in behavior that we are seeking..We have seen some responses..What we have seen is that they definitely want to be seen as taking action..Which is good..They are not completely thumping their nose at the U.S…They are taking steps, and they want to be seen as responsive.” However, the U.S has not seen “that determination, in really going after terrorist leaders that operate freely on their territory,” the official said.

On India-Pakistan Ties

Asked about the current state of India-Pakistan relations and its impact on the U.S policy for the region, the official said: “We are concerned about the status of India-Pakistan relations. Two nuclear armed states… we know there is potential for things to escalate very quickly, and we are very concerned about terrorist groups that continue to function inside Pakistan, and have the the ability to conduct terrorist attacks inside India. We are concerned about the situation. But until Pakistan really demonstrates seriousness in cracking down on LeT or Jaish-e-Mohammad, there is not going to be that conducive atmosphere for any dialogue or talks to take place.”

The official noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reached out and traveled to Pakistan in 2015. “…and six days later you had the major attack on Pathankot. I think there is probably some hesitation in India about reaching out and the potential impact or backlash to any effort to reach out to Pakistan. Situation between Indian and Pakistan, it is really not moving forward, and I think this is unfortunate, but we need to see Pakistan demonstrate that it is serious about cracking down on LeT and JeM,” said the official.

‘Moving in the Wrong Direction’

“Frankly, they are moving in the wrong direction. The release of Hafiz Muhammad last November was a step in the wrong direction. We will continue to monitor the situation have skirmishes, almost on a daily basis. (But) we don’t have any interest in trying to mediate the dispute over Kashmir. That is something for the two sides to deal with. We are not seeking any kind of role.”

Asked whether the U.S put the onus on Pakistan to improve relations, the official said: “You cannot expect a country to be interested in negotiations when there is threat of terrorist groups conducting an attack whenever they see that. So, I think there is an expectation that Pakistan is serious in cracking down on these terrorist groups.”