Washington, March 29 (IANS) Worried about terrorist attacks against India, the United States has been “very encouraged” by the anti-terrorism cooperation between Bangladesh and India to thwart plans of groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba to “inflitrate into India”, a senior US official has said.
“We’re worried about terrorist attacks against India, in particular right now,” Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake told Bangladesh’s ATN News in Dhaka last week, according to a State Department transcript.
“We’ve been very encouraged by the progress that Bangladesh and India have made over the last two years under the leadership of the current government. And our own bilateral cooperation is very strong as well,” he said.
Blake said South and Central Asia had become “such an important strategic partner and priority for the United States” as “there are a lot of groups that are a threat not only to the United States but to our friends like Bangladesh and India and others.”
The US was following very closely the activities of groups like Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e- Mohammad, and even groups like Jamaati Mujahadeen in Bangladesh, he said citing it as a reason for priority to counter terrorism cooperation with Dhaka.
Asked about the difference between the current regime of Sheikh Hasina and the one that was in power between 2001 and 2006, Blake said: “I think the most significant difference is the priority that Sheikh Hasina’s government has attached to greater cooperation with India.”
“One of the very first steps she took after becoming prime minister was to re-establish close ties with India, and that included very close counter-terrorist ties,” he said.
“We think that groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba are looking for opportunities and countries through which they can infiltrate into India,” Blake said. “So having strong partnerships between India’s neighbours is a very important priority for us as well.”
Asked about South Asian nations’ response to a counter-terrorism task force, Blake said: “I think from our perspective, the bilateral cooperation between all these countries has been pretty good, with the possible exception of Pakistan, where, again, I think that’s a very high priority for India and for Pakistan.”
The US was “very encouraged” about the March 28 meeting between the Indian and Pakistani home ministers “And we hope that that can get counter-terrorism cooperation back on a more solid footing,” he said.