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Tillerson confuses India once again!

Tillerson

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U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, while reviewing his 7-day tour to South Asia and the Middle East on Thursday said he did not coerce Pakistan but reaffirmed that the US will eliminate the scourge of terrorism with or without its support. Tillerson, 64, had a series of serious discussions with the Pakistani civil and military leadership on Tuesday.

He called upon Islamabad to step up efforts against terrorism; Pakistan while agreeing to cooperate, refused to wilt under pressure and took exceptions to continued U.S. allegations on it. Tillerson, who is known for his soft diplomatic skills said that the message to Islamabad was: “Here’s what we need for Pakistan to do. We’re asking you to do this; we’re not demanding anything. You’re a sovereign country. You’ll decide what you want to do.

The continued engagement interspersed with scant periods of bonhomie can also somewhat reduce trust deficits, which can, at a later stage be used to weave a new strategic relationship.

”Admitting the tactical nature of the new South Asia policy, Tillerson said that the need to eradicate the menace of terrorism is “not a threat. It’s just a matter of fact. We have to deal with the conditions on the ground. And as you know, the entire South Asia strategy is a conditions-based strategy.”

Experts have asserted that Washington’s new South Asia strategy is a policy that is in search of a clear strategy and is hence based on a series of tactical measures aimed at achieving abstract and untenable goals. Tillerson’s visit is being seen as one which has again drawn Islamabad’s ire after a brief period of goodwill.

Read more: Tillerson’s tough talk in New Delhi against Pakistan: What next?

Much to the delight of New Delhi, Tillerson delved on the need to eliminate terrorists’ safe havens which he said are mostly based in Pakistan. However, Tillerson’s media briefing after his tour is most likely to add to Delhi’s confusion. While India wants the US to take decisive action against Pakistan, Washington is neither in the mood nor position to pull the plug on Islamabad. Tillerson said it was implored upon Islamabad that we will defeat terrorism.

It was a very good and open exchange. The people of Pakistan have much to gain from a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, and a region that denies safe haven to terrorists.

“This is what we think is necessary. And if you don’t want to do that, don’t feel you can do it, we’ll adjust our tactics and our strategies to achieve the same objective a different way,” said Tillerson. While acknowledging the respect between the US and Pakistan, the 64-year old said that he conveyed the Pakistani officials his country’s legitimate concerns. ” I said to them, ‘You can do it or you can decide not to do it.

And if you decide you don’t want to do it, just let us know. We’ll adjust our plans accordingly and we’ll deal with it ourselves’,” added Tillerson, who is currently facing trouble at home by taking a soft and diplomacy-first line toward the simmering North Korean crisis.

Read more: What should India expect from Tillerson?

Irking Delhi

While experts are certain that U.S. pivot to India is complete and so is its estrangement with Islamabad, Washington or at least some voices there realize the dangers associated with abandoning Islamabad. Tillerson, cognizant of how much Delhi plays on the mind of Pakistani policy-makers offered mediation in the Kashmir dispute.

Tillerson delved on the need to eliminate terrorists’ safe havens which he said are mostly based in Pakistan. However, Tillerson’s media briefing after his tour is most likely to add to Delhi’s confusion.

Despite officially claiming neutrality in the dispute, the US has batted for India’s narrative that the Kashmir dispute is one of terrorism and not that of self-determination. Pakistan has often times implored the US to help end the casus belli with India. However, such a possibility is precluded by the fact that it is in the US strategic interests to pander to and court India in a bid to counter China.

Tillerson rejected the impression that he carried a brief from Delhi for Islamabad. “I would not have characterized my direct discussions with them as lecturing at all. It was a very good and open exchange. The people of Pakistan have much to gain from a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, and a region that denies safe haven to terrorists.

Read more: Tillerson’s Islamabad visit: Still miles to travel

Tillerson said that the need to eradicate the menace of terrorism is “not a threat. It’s just a matter of fact. We have to deal with the conditions on the ground. And as you know, the entire South Asia strategy is a conditions-based strategy.”

This was my principal message to Prime Minister (Shahid Khaqan) Abbasi, Chief of Army Staff (Gen Qamar) Bajwa, and the Pakistani leadership, he said. The US is seemingly treading on a tightrope where it has to solidify its strategic ties with India in such a way that Islamabad is not completely abandoned.

This, according to watchers is a tough ask. However, if recent events are anything to go by, both countries can cooperate on specific tactical matters; the continued engagement interspersed with scant periods of bonhomie can also somewhat reduce trust deficits, which can, at a later stage be used to weave a new strategic relationship.

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