WASHINGTON: The US should ask Pakistan to do more to combat terrorism and improve trade openings with India for better bilateral ties, a former Obama Administration official has told American lawmakers.
“I think that Pakistan in the past several years has missed a number of opportunities to allow itself to better its ties with India, and to allow itself to open its economy further to some of the opportunities that its strategic location affords,” said Alyssa Ayres, who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia from 2010 to 2013.
Currently a Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ayres during a Congressional hearing this week said that Pakistan has still not given India the most favoured nation status.
“We should be asking Pakistan to do more on A, the trade openings, and B, the counterterrorism questions. And this is an issue that I’m certain comes up over and over again,” Ayres said when Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked what India should be doing to improve ties with Pakistan.
“Well, what should we be asking India to do?” Cardin repeated his question. “Well, we are asking them to do a lot, I mean, it seems. They have serious concerns. The Mumbai attackers’ trial still has not gone forward,” Ayres said as she was again interrupted by the Democratic Senator from Maryland.
“We’re going to have an opportunity to have the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) in our country. How do we advance the regional security, and how do we handle what India can do in regards to the Pakistan relationship?” Cardin asked one more time.
Ayres said “it is my understanding that we continue to encourage both countries to try to keep that dialogue open. You have seen where there have been hiccups in the course of the past year. But the Indian government does come back and try to keep that channel open”.
“You saw the Prime Minister stop in Lahore to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Christmas Day, on his birthday. Shortly after that, you saw a terrorist attack take place across the border in Pathankot.
“I think the challenge here is finding a way to press Pakistan so these terrorist attacks don’t derail the process because that is the other part of the pattern that we continually see,” she said.
At Tuesday’s Congressional hearing, Ayres also responded to questions from top American Senators who expressed dissatisfaction over the pace of economic reforms under the Modi government.