WASHINGTON - Acknowledging that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif recognises that insecurity in Pakistan is a threat to its own stability and that of the region, President Barack Obama has said that the latest mass killing at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda underlined the need for more decisive action against extremist networks operating on its territory.

“Pakistan has an opportunity to show that it is serious about delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling terrorist networks,” the president was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India (PTI), the country’s national news agency. “In the region and around the world, there must be zero tolerance for safe havens and terrorists must be brought to justice,” he added.

It was Obama’s third interview to the Indian news agency since he assumed the office of president in 2009, as his administration worked to build closer relations with India, raising them to strategic level. As president, Obama has visited India twice without ever going to Pakistan, considered a US ally against terrorism. He has established particularly close ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We have developed a friendship and close working relationship, including our conversations on the new secure lines between our offices,“ he said.

Obama said the crackdown on extremists was “the right policy” but was quoted as saying that Pakistan “can and must” take more effective action.

The US leader lauded recent counter-terrorism operations by Pakistani security forces while repeating the do more mantra.

“Since then (Charsadda), we have seen Pakistan take action against several specific groups,” said Obama.

“We have also seen continued terrorism inside Pakistan such as the recent attack on the university in northwest Pakistan.”

Obama said the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot was “another example of the inexcusable terrorism that India has endured for too long”.

He gave credit to Prime Minister Modi for reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after the attack.

“Both leaders are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region,” Obama added.

Agencies add: Saying that the Indo-US relationship can be one of the defining partnerships of the century, he said that PM Modi shared his enthusiasm for a strong partnership and “we have developed a friendship and close working relationship, including our conversations on the new secure lines between our offices.”

Asked if the relationship has achieved its full potential, the president replied, “Absolutely not.”

Referring to India, President Obama said his visit last year reflected how ties have transformed. He said he believed “the relationship between India and the US can be one of the defining partnerships of this century.”

He said his hope was that his visit could help spark a new era of cooperation between the two countries and “I believe it did”.

President Obama said the two countries were doing even more as global partners including more military exercises, greater cooperation in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region and working together to confront climate change.

“I continue to believe that America can be India’s best partner. So I hope future generations can look back at this moment and see that this was the time when the world’s largest democracies became true global partners. In my final year as president, continuing to deepen our ties.

Twenty-one people were killed last Wednesday in an attack at a university campus in Pakistan’s tribal northwest which was claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, barely a year after a massacre at a school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people.

A military offensive against extremists in Pakistan’s tribal areas was intensified after the Peshawar attack, although Indian officials say authorities across the border still turn a blind eye to militant groups.

India has blamed gunmen belonging to the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammed for an attack on one of its air force bases close to the Pakistan border earlier this month that left seven soldiers dead.

The attack came only days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paid his first visit to Pakistan, dropping in for talks with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his way home from Afghanistan.

Modi has resisted pressure to put ties with Pakistan back in deep freeze after the airbase attack, and Obama endorsed the continuation of contacts.