WASHINGTON - In an obvious attempt to allay Islamabad’s concerns over deepening Washington-New Delhi relations, the White House, on the eve of President Barack Obama’s depature for India for his second visit, has underscored the value of US-Pakistan relationship, stating it is “incredibly important” to shared security matters.

And Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser, went on to say that United States’ relations with Pakistan and India are not at expense of the other.

“We don’t view these relationships as taking place at the expense of the other, that we can have a good relationship with India and we can have a good relationship with Pakistan,” he told reporters.

President Obama is set to attend the India’s Republic Day parade as the chief guest at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is skipping Pakistan for the second time.

“Obviously the US-Pakistan relationship is incredibly important to our shared security,” Rhodes remarked, adding the US president could not visit Pakistan in 2011 due to significant bilateral tensions that year.

“Frankly, that’s in the interest of all the three countries,” Rhodes said when asked if the White House took into account the diplomatic implications of Obama missing out on visiting Pakistan.

Obama is the second US president after Jimmy Carter to have not visited Pakistan during their India trip.

But, he added, the US-Pakistan relationship is now on an upward trajectory with growing confidence in high-level engagement.

“I think both countries have acknowledged that. But we’ve moved on. Recently, Secretary (of State, John) Kerry was able to visit Pakistan,” where he met Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership, he said.

“Frankly, we believe that that relationship is on the uptick. It’s as good as it’s been in years. So we feel confident in our high-level engagement.” Rhodes added.

The US-Pakistan relationship will be one of the subjects to come up under discussion during Obama’s visit to India.

He said it is better for the region that Washington maintains close ties with both Islamabad and New Delhi. Washington encourages dialogue between Pakistan and India for resolution of outstanding issues, he added.

“It’s very complicated. It’s not easy. But again, it’s better for the broader dynamic in the region if the United States has a good relationship with both countries with respect to their bilateral issues, their pursuit of dialogue is something that the United States has consistently supported, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Rhodes praised Pakistan’s ongoing operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants.

“We have a robust security cooperation in place with Pakistan, and we’ve seen the Pakistanis take some steps in recent months to go on the offensive against some of the militant groups that have threatened the Pakistani people and Pakistani government, including the Pakistani Taliban,” he said.

He said that the terrorists operating in the region threaten the United States and India while Pakistanis have suffered greatly at the hands of the militant groups.

“So when you look at the network of extremist groups that operate in that part of the world, from Al-Qaeda to the Pakistani Taliban, to the Haqqani Network, to LeT, we have significant counterterrorism cooperation with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, that has been a priority of this administration from day one,” he said.

Former president Carter had visited India in January 1978 and skipped Pakistan apparently because of unstable political situation there after Ziaul Haq overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. But that was a snub intended for dictator Zia, not Pakistan.

All other presidential visits - Dwight D Eisenhower in 1959, Richard Nixon in 1969, Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W Bush in March 2006 - have included Pakistan. Obama had also not visited Pakistan during his first trip to India in November 2010.

“Considering the sensitivity of the issue, he had called Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to inform him about his decision to travel to India,” Rhodes said.