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Terror common enemy of India, Pak, US: Holbrooke

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
July 23, 2009 01:09 IST
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India, Pakistan and the United States were facing the shared challenge of combating terrorism, a top American official said on Wednesday as he pressed Islamabad to 'move forward' from the 'complicated history' with New Delhi to take on the 'common enemy.'

"For the first time since partition, Pakistan, the US and India face a common enemy, a common challenge and a common task. That doesn't mean the complicated history between (Pakistan and India) is over," Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told mediapersons.

"But we have moved forward and deal with the fact that in the western part (of Pakistan) there are people who attacked the US, who attacked India, who attack people in Pakistan, including late leader Benazir Bhutto and who have said publicly they wish to keep doing it," he added.

Holbrooke, on his second visit to the region in seven weeks, met Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who asked the US to provide sophisticated military hardware and actionable intelligence to Pakistan so that the country's armed forces could effectively tackle the Taliban insurgency.

He also welcomed the outcome of Gilani's meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Egypt and hoped this "would go a long way towards the early resumption of the composite dialogue between the two countries."

During his meeting with the top US envoy, Gilani demanded that the US should share "real time, credible and actionable intelligence" with Pakistan and provide unmanned aerial vehicle technology, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's House.

The US should also supply "much-needed equipment and ammunition to Pakistan's armed forces" to ensure the "successful completion of the ongoing operation against the militants," he said.

Gilani reiterated his government's opposition to drone attacks in the country's tribal belt, saying these strikes "have proved counterproductive and have seriously impeded Pakistan's efforts towards rooting out militancy and terrorism from that area."

Islamabad has strongly opposed the drone attacks, describing them as a violation of the country's sovereignty. Over 500 people, including Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed in some 50 drone attacks carried out since the middle of last year.

Referring to the destruction caused by militants, Gilani urged the US and other friendly nations to help Pakistan "in a big way" in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

He said this was an immediate need as the people displaced by military operations against the Taliban have started moving back to their homes in northwestern Malakand division.

Holbrooke also called on Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the two leaders discussed the security situation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, media reports said.

They reportedly agreed to step up security along the border so that militants fleeing the US military surge in Afghanistan's Helmand province could not sneak into Pakistan.

Reports quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit as saying that Islamabad raised "some concerns" about the Afghan offensive with Holbrooke.

Gilani also called on the US administration to expedite the passage of the Kerry-Lugar and Reconstruction Opportunity Zone bills by the US Congress without any conditions as this would prove counterproductive and create a perception of a "transactional nature of the Pakistan-US relationship."

The Kerry-Lugar bill envisages the US providing $ 7.5 billion over the next five years as non-military aid. The official statement quoted Holbrooke as "commending the government of Pakistan and its armed forces' remarkable success against militants in the ongoing operation."

He assured Gilani of the US administration's continued support in rehabilitating the displaced people and reconstruction of militancy-affected areas. The US will soon release the remainder of the 165 million dollars pledged for the assistance of the displaced people, he said.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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