Rex Tillerson to Arrive in Delhi Today, Pakistan Wary of Deepening US-India Ties
New Delhi, Oct 24: The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be arriving India for the first time in his official capacity on a three-day visit to India beginning Tuesday. Tillerson‘s visit to New Delhi will underline the Trump administration’s strategy to make India the centrepiece of its South Asia policy. However, Tillerson will halt at Pakistan before landing in New Delhi, Islamabad has been wary of deepening ties between the US and India under the Trump administration.
In Pakistan, Rex Tillerson will hold talks with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discuss Pakistan-US relations, Afghanistan and regional security. While Tillerson is expected to deliver a blunt message to his Pakistani hosts about cracking down on safe havens of terror, Islamabad is likely to express its displeasure over the deepening US-India ties.
A Reuters report said the US Secretary of State is also expected to hear Pakistani officials warn him that drawing nuclear-armed India deeper into Afghanistan would destabilise the region and do little to end the 16-year war that is now America’s longest military conflict. “Bringing India into the mix is like adding kerosene to fire,” Miftah Ismail, a state minister and close ally of Prime Minister Abbasi was quoted as saying in the report.
Pakistan has been upset that its traditional ally America is now cosying up to India over Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump has vowed to be tougher on Pakistan than his predecessors. Trump had hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” and warned that Islamabad has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists. While slamming Pakistan, Trump had reached out to India, seeking an enhanced role for New Delhi, especially in the economic field, to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Carrying forward Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy, Rex Tillerson on Monday also said that the relationship between America and Pakistan will be conditions-based while hailing India’s contribution in Afghanistan in terms of peace and employment. During his brief and unannounced visit to Kabul, Tillerson once again Pakistan to act against terrorist safe havens to get the US support. On Diwali, Tillerson said the US wants Pakistan to act against terrorist groups taking shelter on its soil. He also said the US look forward to collaborating with India to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Speaking on Rex Tillerson’s visit to India and Pakistan, a State Department official said, “America’s relationship with India do not come at the expense of Pakistan or vice versa. The things that the US can do to help alleviate some of the tensions on Pakistan’s borders around Afghanistan and in India.”
Rex Tillerson started his week-long five-nation tour on October 20 from Saudi Arabia that would also take him to India, Qatar and Switzerland. Tillerson’s visit comes after President Trump outlined a revamped strategy for Afghanistan in August, with measures including more troops, lifting restrictions on commanders in the field imposed by the Obama administration, increasing pressure on Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven to militant groups along its border and seeking more support from India in Afghanistan.