Underlining US awareness that Pakistan is a hotbed of terrorist activity, US President Barak Obama has sent a strong message calling on Pakistan to dismantle terrorist safe havens and to punish those behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Just ahead of his visit to India, Obama said in an interview, "I've made it clear that even as the United States works with Pakistan to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice."
This is the first time Obama has publicly accused key strategic ally Pakistan of harbouring terrorists who launch attacks in the region, although US authorities have warned Pakistan to avoid trying to attack India during his visit, and Islamabad in response has banned several extremist outfits.
"On my previous visit to India, my first stop was the memorial at the Taj hotel to pay my respects to the victims, meet with survivors and send a strong message to the Indian people that we stand together in defence of our security and our way of life," he said.
"Like people around the world, Indians and Americans were horrified at the senseless slaughter of so many students and teachers at the school in Peshawar, which was a painful reminder that terrorists threaten us all," he said in the interview with India Today.
Indian role in Afghanistan
Obama lauded India's contribution to the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. "I would add that we are grateful for the generous assistance that India has provided over many years to help the Afghan people improve their lives," he said.
Obama said that even though the US combat mission in Aghanistan was over, American troops would continue to train and equip Afghan forces and engage in counter-terrorism missions to prevent al Qaeda's return.
Referring to the recent attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Obama said the greatest terror threat currently comes from al Qaeda affiliates, violent extremist groups and individuals who have succumbed to terrorist ideologies.
"We're helping nations go after terrorist groups within their borders, whether on the Arabian Peninsula or in North Africa. We're leading the international coalition to destroy ISIL. We're working with many nations to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from crossing borders and attacking our citizens," he said.