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Nawaz urges Washington to end drone strikes; seeks help in resolving Kashmir issue; demands repatriation of Aafia; American president raises issue of Dr Shakil Afridi, Jamatud Dawa; offers help in resolving energy crisis, developing infrastructure
 
 
Rana Jawad & Monitoring report
Thursday, October 24, 2013
From Print Edition
 
 

 

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said that all-out efforts were being made by his country to decrease the incidents of terrorism in Pakistan.

 

He said this during a meeting with Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday.PM Nawaz Sharif, on the occasion, demanded of the US president to halt drone strikes in Pakistan as they were proving to be counterproductive in the war against terrorism and were the greatest impediment to bringing peace to the terrorism-ravaged country.

 

The premier also sought US intervention in resolving the long-standing Kashmir issue to ensure stability in the region.

 

Speaking while standing next to Obama in the Oval Office, Sharif said “I brought up the issue of drones during our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes.”

 

Nawaz Sharif also urged Barack Obama to help repatriate Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving a sentence in America.

 

Nawaz Sharif was highly optimistic about continued and increased US cooperation and assistance in trade, energy and other issues but there was no firm assurance given on the drone issue though the US president said he respected Pakistan’s sovereignty.

 

The Pakistani leadership was told that if the reasons for the use of drones were checked, drone attacks might not be needed but there was no immediate announcement that any change in policy had been decided.

 

Obama told Sharif he respected Pakistan’s sovereignty and concerns of both the countries and he was optimistic about making strides in moving forward because both people had suffered terribly from terrorism in the past.

 

“More Pakistanis have been killed and I know PM Sharif is committed to trying to check these incidents inside Pakistan and stopping the export of terrorism,” Obama said at the meeting.

 

Afghanistan was discussed between the two sides in detail. Obama promised to work together so that they could achieve the goal to protect Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s interests over the long term.

 

The two sides discussed India, and Obama lauded the PM for taking a wise path to reduce the tension of decades. Billions, he said, had been spent on the arms race in response to these tensions. He appreciated all the work the PM had done. “He has great challenges and he understands where Pakistan needs to go and we want to be fully supportive for the success of democracy inside Pakistan,” Obama said.

 

The US president referred to “some tensions between us and occasional misunderstandings” but said “the fundamental goodwill between our people will be reflected in government relations and we will make progress.”

 

The US president termed Sharif’s visit as excellent.The prime minister said that Pakistan did not want aid from the United States, rather it wanted trade and called upon Barack Obama to open his country’s doors to Pakistani products.

 

He said that Pakistan had been facing the brunt of the war against terror and the backlash of this war had devastated the economy of the country and more than 40,000 innocent people had lost their lives.

 

On the other hand, the US president called for the release of Dr Shakil Afridi detained in Pakistan for helping US forces in tracing Osama Bin Laden. The US president assured Nawaz Sharif of assistance in resolving the energy crisis and developing infrastructure. Obama also raised the issue of Jamaatud Dawa and the non-prosecution of the accused in the Mumbai case.

 

Agencies add: Obama did not mention drones when addressing reporters. But in a joint statement, the two leaders said their partnership was “based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

 

Obama also tried to reassure Pakistan on the status of Afghanistan, from where US combat forces plan to withdraw next year.Obama said he was “confident” of a solution “that is good for Afghanistan, but also helps to protect Pakistan over the long term.”

 

Pakistan, in turn, has voiced alarm at the influence of its historic rival India in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime.Obama hailed Pakistan’s sacrifices from extremism. More than 40,000 Pakistanis have died in attacks over the past decade.

 

“I know the prime minister is very much committed to try to reduce this incidence of terrorism inside Pakistan” and also wants to stop its export, Obama said.

 

Earlier, US Vice President Joseph Biden on Wednesday reaffirmed his country’s commitment to strengthening bilateral ties for a strong, democratic and prosperous Pakistan during a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

 

The discussion between the two leaders took place at Biden’s residence hours before President Barack Obama was due to hold wide-ranging discussions with Prime Minister Sharif at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Biden, a long-time supporter of a close US-Pakistan relationship, congratulated Nawaz Sharif on his historic election in May, which led to the first democratic transfer of power between elected governments in Pakistan’s history.

 

According to a White House statement, the United States Vice President “affirmed to the prime minister that together we must continue to combat terrorism and violent extremism and work to strengthen regional and global security.”

 

Biden and Nawaz Sharif also “discussed many of the economic and development challenges that Pakistan faces and the steps the prime minister is taking to address them.”

 

The Pakistan Embassy, in a statement, said both the leaders discussed “issues of mutual interest in the bilateral relationship as well as cooperation on issues of regional peace and stability.”

 

“Both the leaders reaffirmed their keenness to work together to maintain the positive trajectory in the bilateral relations and identified the revived Strategic Dialogue process as the ideal vehicle to further strengthen a people-centric, broad-based and mutually beneficial relationship,” the statement said.

 

They emphasized the need to focus on promoting cooperation in trade and investment, energy, education, science and technology sectors and strengthening people-to-people contacts to realize the true potential of the relationship, according to the embassy.

 

Vice President Biden appreciated Pakistan’s contribution and sacrifices in fighting the scourge of terrorism.

 

“He praised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s leadership in promoting peace and stability in the region and also acknowledged Pakistan’s useful and important role in facilitating peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

 

The prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

 

Both the leaders agreed on the need to further strengthen coordination and cooperation among Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan to ensure success of the reconciliation process.

 

Prime minister and the US vice president discussed the issue of terrorism in the backdrop of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and other issues of mutual interest.

 

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama hoped to use the meeting with Sharif to promote “a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan that is contributing to regional and international security and prosperity.”

 

The White House meeting is Sharif’s first since he swept to power in the May elections. It comes a year before the United States plans to pull out combat troops from Afghanistan, ending its longest war launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

 

In a message sure to be welcomed at the White House, Sharif said that Pakistan supported a “peaceful, stable and unified Afghanistan” — whose leaders often accuse Pakistan’s powerful spy network of covertly supporting the Taliban.

 

Sharif said he has assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai “that we wish neither to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, nor do we have any favorites.”

 

Obama is expected to sound out Sharif for ideas on reaching an elusive peace agreement involving the Taliban, as well as practical support for pulling out most of the 50,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the US Congressmen on the Capitol Hill, where he was welcomed by Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ranking member Congressman Eliot Engel and other members of the committee from both sides of the aisle.

 

During the meeting, the prime minister spoke on a broad range of issues in the bilateral relationship. He said that democracy was a shared value between the peoples of the United States and Pakistan.

 

The prime minister noted that both countries had cooperated closely at important junctures of history and a strong Pakistan-US bilateral relationship was important for peace and stability in the region.

 

The prime minister said that Pakistan desired to build an enduring partnership with the United States in the future. He also underscored the importance of enhanced trade and expanding people-to-people contacts between the two nations.

 

The prime minister also drew US Congressmen’s attention to Pakistan’s concerns on the continued use of drones.

 

In his remarks, Chairman Ed Royce recognised the sacrifices made the people of Pakistan in the fight against terrorists and said that a strong relationship between Pakistan and the United States was critical to achieve shared objectives.

 

The meeting was followed by an interactive session and the US Congressman discussed matters of interest with the prime minister.

 

Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also attended the meeting.

 

Briefing journalists about a series of meetings of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had with top Obama administration officials, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said the United States and Pakistan would be engaged in a range of initiatives in the coming months to help bolster cooperation in trade, investment and energy sectors.

 

He said the Pakistan-US Working Group on Energy will meet in Houston and Washington in November to discuss ways to expand cooperation.

 

US Finance Secretary Jack Lew hosted dinner for the prime ministerial delegation, which was attended by secretaries of energy, US trade representative, USAID chief and president of Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

 

Earlier, World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.In all meetings, officials and heads of financial institutions were appreciative of the government’s reforms, the foreign secretary said.

 

“The US officials said the reform process has had the desired effect and has created a lot of excitement in the investors’ community to look at Pakistan seriously for business.”

 

Under another initiative, the United States would invite Pakistani businessmen and send “buyers mission” to spur trade prospects.

 

“The United States is one of our largest trading partners and promotion of trade and investment has been the main theme of prime minister’s official visit,” Jilani said.He said informed the media that World Bank has agreed to finance the Dasu power project.

 

“We have noticed a lot of positivity in the meetings,” he said, adding that the US officials appreciate Pakistan’s focus on energy, economy and bringing good governance.

 

“They see a lot of seriousness and commitment on part of the government in addressing multifarious challenges and the focus on good governance,” Jilani said, when asked about the reasons for this positivity towards the new government.

 

The foreign secretary reported the two sides have convergences on almost all issues.He said the prime minister also raised the Kashmir dispute while outlining his vision for regional peace to the American officials.