Washington — Senior Indian opposition lawmaker Arun Jaitley said Thursday the United States should press Pakistan to end its “path of terror” if it plans to maintain its billions of dollars in assistance.
On a visit to Washington, Jaitley said he agreed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a range of foreign policy issues including building closer ties with the United States but stressed differences on Pakistan.
Jaitley, who leads the right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upper house of parliament, said the United States needed to ensure that no U.S. aid either directly or indirectly supported worrisome policies by Pakistan.
“We have always believed that any country which assists Pakistan must necessarily ensure that Pakistan gives up the path of terror as an instrument of state policy,” Jaitley told a news conference.
Jaitley pointed to the U.S. raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, as well as allegations that Pakistani intelligence supported the Islamic militants behind the bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai.
“There is now global evidence to indicate that there is hardly… a major terrorist strike anywhere in the world which doesn’t have a Pakistani link to it,” Jaitley said.
The United States has provided some $18 billion in aid to Pakistan since it pledged support for the campaign against Al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 attacks. A number of U.S. lawmakers have questioned the aid since the bin Laden raid.
The BJP rose to prominence on calls for Hindu pride and a hawkish foreign policy but, while in power from 1998 to 2004, its prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee championed diplomacy to improve relations with Pakistan.
Singh has also pursued peace talks with Pakistan and resisted calls for reprisals after the Mumbai attack, which killed 166 people. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was holding talks in Islamabad on Thursday and Friday.
Jaitley stopped short of opposing the talks, but doubted they would be fruitful.
“Unless we can ensure that engagement results in a course correction by Pakistan — and a demonstrable course correction, that it is able to show its disassociation with any form of encouragement to terror — the engagement may not yield the desired results,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley, a legal expert who has served in Vajpayee’s cabinet, visited Washington at the head of a BJP delegation as his supporters try to portray him as a potential future prime minister.