Washington: The United States on Thursday called on Pakistan to curb anti-Indian militants, praising Islamabad's recent efforts against extremism but saying it could do more to improve ties with New Delhi.
Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, in late March held talks in India and Pakistan where he said he voiced support for the recent resumption of dialogue between the longtime adversaries.
Blake hailed the "enormous" progress in Pakistan in fighting Islamic extremists, pointing to its offensives against homegrown Taliban in its restive northwest and recent arrests of militant leaders.
"I think one can argue there is a lot of important progress that has been made but we think there also needs to be progress against these Punjab-based groups," Blake told reporters.
He was referring to groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India holds responsible for a 2008 assault on Mumbai, and Jaish-e-Mohammed, believed to have joined Lashkar in a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.
Blake said Punjab-based militants "are targeting Pakistan as well," pointing to attacks in the provincial capital Lahore including a deadly 2009 ambush on Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team.
Blake said he also relayed to Pakistan the concerns of New Delhi that militants are infiltrating India to carry out attacks.
"I reminded them that from 2004 to 2007 both of those countries made quite important progress in their bilateral relations, and that progress was made possible in part by the significant efforts the government of Pakistan made at the time to stop cross-border infiltration," he said.
The United States has walked a delicate balancing act in its relations in South Asia.
The United States is trying to curb anti-Americanism in Pakistan and has launched a 7.5-billion-dollar aid program to build the country's infrastructure and democratic institutions.
But Washington has warming relations with New Delhi and has voiced hope for a broad alliance between the world's two largest democracies.
In one source of strain, India is seeking access to David Headley, the US-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and American woman who surveyed targets in Mumbai before the siege that left 166 people dead.
US prosecutors last month reached a deal with Headley in which he agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with US investigators. In return, he will avoid the death penalty and extradition to India.
Blake said the United States was "fully committed" to sharing information gleaned from Headley but had not decided whether to give Indian investigators direct access.
"He was scouting out some possible sites and so obviously the government of India has a great interest in anything to do with that and we have a great interest in sharing as much information as we can," Blake said.
Some Indian commentators have voiced outrage, questioning what the US reaction would be if India hesitated at giving access to a suspect involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks.