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Pakistan ‘must’ dismantle terror networks: Obama

In a strong message, US President Barack Obama told Pakistan on Sunday that it “can and must” take more effective action against terrorist groups operating from its soil by “delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling” terror networks there.

Describing the terror attack on the IAF base in Pathankot as “another example of the inexcusable terrorism that India has endured for too long”, Mr. Obama gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after the attack.

“Both leaders are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region,” Mr. Obama told PTI in an interview in Washington during which he answered a wide range of questions covering Indo-US ties, terrorism and outcome of the Paris climate change summit.

Voicing his belief that the Indo-US relationship can be one of the defining partnerships of the century, Mr. Obama said that Mr. Modi shared his enthusiasm for a strong partnership and “we have developed a friendship and close working relationship, including our conversations on the new secure lines between our offices“.

Asked if the relationship has achieved its full potential, the President replied, “Absolutely not.”

On the Pathankot attack, Mr. Obama said, “We join India in condemning the attack, saluting the Indians who fought to prevent more loss of life and extending our condolences to the victims and their families.

“Tragedies like this also underscore why the US and India continue to be such close partners in fighting terrorism.”

Mr. Obama was of the view that Mr. Sharif recognised that insecurity in Pakistan is a threat to its own stability and that of the region. After the December, 2014 school massacre in Peshawar he had vowed to target all militants, regardless of their agenda or affiliation.

“That is the right policy. Since then, we have seen Pakistan take action against several specific groups. We have also seen continued terrorism inside Pakistan such as the recent attack on the university in north west Pakistan.”

The President said that he still believed that “Pakistan can and must” take more effective action against terrorist groups that operate from its territory.

“Pakistan has an opportunity to show that it is serious about delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling terrorist networks. In the region and around the world, there must be zero tolerance for safe havens and terrorists must be brought to justice,” he asserted in this third interview to PTI.

Countries should play by same rules in South China Sea

In a clear signal to China, Mr. Obama said all countries should play by the same rules in international law including freedom of navigation in the South China Sea while India can be an anchor of stability in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region.

He also said India and US will continue to expand their military exercises and maritime cooperation so that the two forces become “interoperable”.

Mr. Obama said during his visit to India last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he agreed to a new joint vision for the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region.

“It’s rooted in our shared interests in a region that’s peaceful and prosperous and where all countries play by the same rules, in accordance with international law and norms, including freedom of navigation,” Mr. Obama.

The Asia Pacific region has witnessed tension after China flexed its military muscle in the resource—rich South China Sea.

The South China Sea is also a major shipping lane. Over half of the world’s commercial shipping passes through the Indo-Pacific waterways.

China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, resulting in overlapping claims with several other Asian nations like Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

They accuse China of illegally reclaiming land in contested areas to create artificial islands with facilities that could potentially be for military use.

The U.S. has criticised Beijing for building artificial islands in the disputed sea, and has flown a B-52 bomber and sailed a guided-missile destroyer near some of the constructions China has made in recent months.

Mr. Obama also said the U.S. recognises that the Indian Ocean is vital to the security of the region and the global economy.

“Our vision recognises that the Indian Ocean is vital to the security of the region and the global economy. And it welcomes India’s determination to ‘Act East’ with stronger security and economic partnerships across the region,” the US President said.

He was replying to a question as to what role he sees for India in the emerging security situation in the Asia Pacific given what is happening and the nuclear tests by North Korea.

“We have elevated our trilateral cooperation with Japan, including on disaster response and humanitarian assistance. And we very much welcome India’s increased ties with the region.

“It’s clear that India can be an anchor of stability and security in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region, and the United States looks forward to the work we can do together,” Mr. Obama said.

He said “we continue to expand our military exercises and maritime cooperation so that our forces become inter operable. We are increasing our defence trade, and we’re collaborating more closely to jointly develop defence technologies.”

Mr. Obama said as President he has worked to renew American leadership in the Asia Pacific because the security and prosperity of the region is critical to its own and that of the world.

“I am proud that, even as we continue to meet pressing challenges elsewhere in the world, we’ve rebalanced our foreign policy and are now playing a larger role in the region.”

Mr. Obama said the U.S. has strengthened alliances, modernised its defence posture, worked to build constructive relationship with China, helped strengthened regional institutions like ASEAN and East Asia Summit and expanded cooperation with emerging powers including India.

All nations accountable to meet climate commitments: Obama

Acknowledging that the Paris agreement on climate change is not perfect and not legally binding, Mr. Obama said that the mechanisms built into it will nevertheless hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.

Describing himself as “passionate” about confronting climate change, Mr. Obama said few countries will see the effects more than India with melting Himalayan glaciers, more unpredictable monsoons and strong cyclones.

He had worked hard, including with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for a strong global agreement in Paris last month that will put the world on the path of a low-carbon future but also allowing developing nations like India to pursue development, growth and reduce poverty, Mr. Obama said.

He was answering a question on the criticism the Indian government faced for making “concessions” at the Paris conference because developed countries had no legal binding targets on finance or emission cuts.

Mr. Obama responded by saying that no agreement, including the Paris one, was perfect.

“But we set out to craft an agreement that would attract the most ambitious action from the widest possible set of countries. And we succeeded.

“We have established the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis — nearly 200 nations committing to their own specific targets, even as we take into account differences between countries.

“India, for example, has committed to the world’s most ambitious target in renewables. And while it’s true that the Paris agreement is not legally binding, it does include a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments,” the President said.

“Prime Minister Modi and I agree on the urgency that every nation needs to act. We also recognise that different countries are at different stages of development and therefore have different roles to play,” he said.

Mr. Obama also said that fighting climate change and harnessing clean energy will increasingly be a pillar of US-India relationship.

For example, he said, the U.S. and India joined 18 other nations in Paris to launch Mission Innovation, a ground breaking new public private partnership to spark new research, development and investment, and help the nations create the clean energy jobs and industries.

“I believe that fighting climate change and harnessing clean energy will increasingly be a pillar of the US-India relationship,” he said.

Moreover, carbon pollution is a threat to public health, and Indians like people everywhere, have the right to breathe clean air, he said.

The U.S., Mr. Obama said, recognises its part in helping to create this problem and so was leading the global effort to combat it by reducing its own emissions.

Mr. Obama said in India hundreds of millions of people do not have electricity and it would be an injustice to consign them to a future without power for schools, homes and businesses.

“We also have to unleash investment and innovation in new technologies that will allow more progress over time and pave the way to even more ambitious carbon reduction targets in the future,” the U.S. President said.

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