Pakistan seeks to shift Obama-Sharif talks focus to India

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Ahead of his Thursday’s meeting with President Barack Obama in the US, visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sought to shift the focus of talks to India rather than counter-terrorism and safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons highlighted by US.

Sharif’s meeting with Obama “will highlight the enduring nature of the US-Pakistan relationship and provide an opportunity to strengthen our cooperation on issues of mutual interest,” a White House statement said.

These include “economic growth, trade and investment, clean energy, global health, climate change, nuclear security, counter-terrorism, and regional stability.”

“The President looks forward to discussions with Prime Minister Sharif on ways we can advance our shared interest in a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan,” the statement said.

According to official Pakistani news agency APP, Pakistan on Wednesday handed over three dossiers to US Secretary of State John Kerry about alleged Indian involvement in subversive activities in the country.

The dossiers were handed over to Kerry when he called on Sharif at the Blair House. Kerry, it said, was briefed about the alleged destabilising role of Indian agencies in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Balochistan and Karachi.

Sharif, according to APP, also reiterated his commitment to seek normalisation with India.

However, State Department spokesperson, John Kirby told reporters he was “not aware that we have” received any documents relating to India from Pakistan.

Declining to “get into the specifics of the discussion” between Kerry and Sharif he said: “We continue to believe that India and Pakistan stand to benefit from practical cooperation, and we encourage both India and Pakistan to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions.”

“The normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India is vital to both countries and to the region, and steps that initiate closer regional trade and energy ties we believe will create jobs, lower inflation, and increase energy supply,” he said.

Kirby said “there is much that Pakistan has done and can continue to do to help us get at the counterterrorism challenge there in the region.”

On the issue of nuclear safety, he noted that Pakistan “is engaged with the international community on nuclear safety and security issues.”

“I’d also note that they have a professional and dedicated security force that understands the importance of nuclear security,” Kirby said. “We believe that they believe in the importance of nuclear security issues.”

Declining to “get into specifics” of discussion on nuclear safety, he said: “But obviously it remains a significant challenge, counter-terrorism, and it’s something that we continue to want to partner with Pakistan on.”

Kerry, he said, had also thanked Sharif for “Pakistan’s regional efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, especially in bringing to justice Al Qaeda leadership and disrupting terrorist plots.”

They discussed the recent announcement to keep US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, noting that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and in the region, Kirby said.

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