Sharif advices Obama to raise ‘Kashmir issue’

RSTV Bureau

OBAMA_MODI2Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked US President Barack Obama to take up the Kashmir issue with the Indian leadership when he travels to
India in January next year, saying its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia.

Sharif made the request when Obama telephoned him on Friday night to convey about his visit to India to attend the Republic Day celebrations as the chief guest and discussed bilateral ties and the regional situation.

He “urged President Obama to take up the cause of Kashmir with the Indian leadership, as its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia,” said a statement from Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office on the discussions between the two leaders.

During the call, Sharif also referred to his visit to India earlier this year to take relations forward.

Sharif alleged that India subsequently took “unfortunate steps, including cancellation of Foreign Secretary-level talks” and “firing across the LoC resulting in civilian casualties” which showed that “India was averse to normalisation of relations with Pakistan.”

The Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan “remains open to the resumption of bilateral dialogue, the onus is on India to create a conducive environment in this regard.”

“President Obama expressed his understanding for our position,” the statement said.

India had cancelled a Foreign Secretary-level meeting in August after Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi met Kashmiri separatists ahead of the talks.

Sharif also recalled an invitation he extended to Obama last year in Washington and conveyed the expectation of the people of Pakistan to welcome the US President to the country sometime in the future.

“The President also assured the Prime Minister that he would undertake a visit to Pakistan at an early date, as soon as the situation normalises in the country,” it said.

The two leaders also discussed the regional situation.

Chance for bolstering ties

US President Barack Obama’s proposed visit to India in January next year is a great opportunity to strengthen and expand bilateral strategic partnership, top American administration officials and experts have said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on friday invited Obama to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, an invitation which has been accepted by the American leader.

“First time a US President is to attend Republic Day (celebrations), which commemorates the adoption of India’s constitution. We are committed to strengthening and expanding the US-India strategic partnership,” National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, tweeted.

“The President looks forward to traveling to India in January to participate in the Indian Republic Day celebration,” she said.

“President Obama is honored to be going to India in January as the Chief Guest for Indian Republic Day. Sign of our close ties and friendship,” Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and a close confidant of Obama, wrote on Twitter.

“A great honor and opportunity in what is still a complicated relationship,” Teresita Schaffer, a retired American diplomat said.

“This is a huge deal. Obama will be part of what may be the most theatrical parade in the world. The Chief Guest slot is by far the most prestigious invitation India can extend to a foreign leader,” Schaffer wrote on her blog – “SouthAsiahand.Com”

Japanese Prime Minister was last year’s honoree. Obama is the first US President to be honored in this way, and the first to visit India twice during his time in office, she said in the blog.

South Asia expert Michael Kugelman from Wilson Center, a top American think tank, described Obama accepting the invitation as a great news that would “send strong message just weeks after the end of drawdown in Afghanistan”.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, in a news dispatch from New Delhi, said the visit is a symbol of improving US-India ties after Modi travelled to the White House in September.