US says it backs India, Pakistan dialogue

Washington, July 11 (IANS) Welcoming the announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan, US has said it supports all steps between the two governments to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation.

The US welcomed the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on sidelines of SCO Summit in Ufa, Russia “and their announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan”, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday.

“We also welcome the announcement that India and Pakistan will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including security, people-to-people ties and expediting the Mumbai trial,” he said.

“And we support all steps between the Governments of India and Pakistan to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation,” Toner said.

Asked how the US viewed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s move to commence the process of granting India and Pakistan full membership, he said: “I’d refer you to India and Pakistan for a reaction to that or for the reasons why they’ve chosen to join that group.”

In reply to another question, Toner said the State Department does not agree with the assessment of Gen. Joseph Dunford, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Russia currently poses the greatest global threat to the US.

As State Department spokesman John Kirby spelled out Thursday, “We certainly recognize the challenges that Russia, primarily through its actions in Ukraine, poses to the region,” he said.

US had taken many steps to address those challenges, Toner said, “But I would add that the Secretary (of State John Kerry) doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly.”

“These are major powers with whom we engage and cooperate on a number of issues despite any disagreements we may have with them,” Toner said. “And those issues include, frankly, Iran and others – Syria, other issues around the world.”

“I would just say what the Secretary does consider an existential threat is the rapid growth of extremist groups like ISIL, particularly in ungoverned spaces,” he said.

“Certainly, we have disagreements with Russia and its activities along or within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat,” Toner said.

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