Washington: Slamming Pakistan for maintaining ties with “unsavoury characters”, President Barack Obama has asked its key ally to stop hedging its bets in Afghanistan and adopt a peaceful approach towards India. “They see their security interests threatened by an independent Afghanistan in part because they think it will ally itself to India, and Pakistan still considers India their mortal enemy,” he said at a White House news conference Thursday, adding, “Part of what we want to do is actually get Pakistan to realise that a peaceful approach towards India would be in everybody’s interests, and would help Pakistan actually develop.”
Chiding Pakistan for backing Afghan insurgents to prevent India from consolidating its influence in Afghanistan after US-led forces withdraw at the end of 2014, Obama said: “I think they have hedged their bets in terms of what Afghanistan would look like. And part of their bets is having interactions with some of the unsavoury characters who think they might end up regaining power in Afghanistan after coalition forces have left,” he said in his sternest comments amid a growing rift with its key ally in the region.
His use of the term “unsavoury characters” clearly referred to the Taliban and the Haqqani network, whose leader served in the Taliban regime that was ousted by the 2001 US-led invasion.
Obama’s comments came in response to a question whether he agreed with Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who last month called the Haqqanis a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Obama said: “What we’ve tried to persuade Pakistan of is that it is in their interest to have a stable Afghanistan; that they should not be feeling threatened by a stable, independent Afghanistan. We’ve still got work to do.”
He said the United States would “constantly evaluate” its relationship with Pakistan but indicated that a substantial cut in US military and civilian aid – which has totalled some $20 billion since 2001 – was unlikely because he was “hesitant to punish flood victims in Pakistan because of poor decisions by their intelligence services.”
“There’s no doubt that, you know, we’re not going to feel comfortable with a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan if we don’t think they’re mindful of our interests as well,” he said.