Washington: The United States on Thursday welcomed efforts by India and Pakistan to increase people-to-people contact, days after the two countries laid foundation stones for the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
In a briefing here, US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters, "I'm aware of the reports of this Kartarpur corridor, as you referenced there. I understand that it's kind of a visa-free way for Indians to visit this important Sikh site. And of course, the US -- we would welcome efforts to increase people-to-people ties between India and Pakistan."
The route along the India-Pakistan border is three kilometres away from Gurdaspur in Punjab. Once opened, it would allow Sikh pilgrims a direct access to the historic Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev died in 1539.
Replying to a question on US President Donald Trump's tweets on stopping aid to Pakistan at a time when the US is seeking its cooperation on bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, Palladino underlined the need for Islamabad to "build confidence and trust in bilateral relations" with Washington.
"The Secretary (of State Michael Pompeo) has emphasised the need for Pakistan to deliver the outcome and build confidence and trust between our two countries, and our policy towards Pakistan is clear," the State Department spokesperson said.
Ties between the US and Pakistan have been strained since this year after the Trump administration hit out at the Pakistan government for its lacklustre approach in combating terrorism on its soil by halting military aid to Islamabad.
Commenting on the now-cancelled meeting between Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Palladino asserted, "It was aboard Air Force One, I believe, that (the announcement of cancelling the meeting) took place and the Secretary of State was with the President at the time. But what's clear is the President's tweets on the subject were quite clear at what we looked for, and that is the return of the Ukrainian sailors and the vessels. The aggression that we've witnessed this week is unacceptable and a strong message has been sent."
On November 25, Russian guards fired upon and captured three Ukrainian naval ships after they illegally entered into the Russian territory of the Black Sea. The incident drew international condemnation especially by the US, further leading to Ukraine preparing to impose martial law in its border areas with Russia.
Reacting to the same, Palladino said that the captured Ukranian vessels and detained crew members should be released by the Russian government and Washington is going to be "firm" in this position.
Replying to another question on the prospects of having high-level talks with North Korea, the State Department spokesperson said that deliberations would happen soon, while their policy on North Korea's denuclearisation remains unchanged at the same time.
"We are looking forward to having high-level talks. Our policy hasn't changed on North Korea. Progress (of denuclearisation) has been made, and we are hopeful that more will be made on North Korea as well. The Secretary and the President have been clear that we're not going to be forced into artificial time constraints. We've made great progress at the summit in Singapore for the final, fully verified denuclearisation. We are going to continue to push forward on that. And of course, future dialogue will take place and it'll definitely be something that Special Representative (Stephen) Biegun will be leading," Palladino elaborated.
Replying to a query on the comments of the head of the Iraqi militant group Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, who recently said that the Hashd al-Shaabi should have a role in security along Iraq's border with Syria, Palladino said that the security of Iraq and its border is the Iraqi government's responsibility....