WASHINGTON, Oct 24: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Wednesday he urged President Barack Obama to end drone strikes in Pakistan, touching on a thorny subject in relations between the two countries.
PM Sharif and President Obama were speaking after a 90-minute long one-on-one meeting at the White House’s Oval Office.
“I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need to end … such strikes,” said the prime minister.
For his part, Obama made no mention of drones and remained silent over the issue.
Obama, however, said he wanted to prevent security cooperation from being a source of tension between the US and Pakistan.
Sharif said that he brought up US drone strikes in Pakistan and that the strikes need to end. The strikes have been a sore point in relations between the two countries.
Obama said fighting terrorism was a challenge and was not easy, adding that he and Sharif discussed security and how they can cooperate in ways that respect Pakistan. He added that cooperation would also be extended to Pakistan with regards to the economy and energy crisis face by the country.
The Pakistani premier said they discussed building a constructive relationship with Pakistan’s arch rival India, including on Kashmir. Obama agreed saying Afghanistan and India were also on the agenda.
With US forces preparing to pull out of Afghanistan next year, Obama pledged to brief Sharif fully and to work toward an Afghanistan that is “stable and secure, its sovereignty respected.”
”I’m confident that, working together, we can achieve a goal that is good for Afghanistan, but also helps to protect Pakistan over the long term,” Obama told reporters at the Oval Office.
During discussions over Pakistan’s Kashmir dispute with India Obama praised Sharif for seeking to end tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
”Billions of dollars have been spent on an arms race in response to these tensions,” Obama said. ”Those resources could be much more properly invested in education, social welfare programs
Moreover, Sharif also invited the US president to visit Pakistan but the invitation was not publicly accepted by Obama.
Earlier, Sharif was welcomed to the White House Wednesday by a military honor guard lining the driveway leading to the West Wing. The Pakistani premier was accompanied by his special assistant on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
Prior to the meeting, officials in both countries were hoping to scale back tensions that escalated after the 2011 US strike within Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden and last year’s accidental killing of two dozen Pakistani troops in an American airstrike along the Afghan border.
“We want to find ways for our countries to cooperate, even as we have differences on some issues, and we want to make sure that the trajectory of this relationship is a positive one,” White House spokesman Jay Carney had said earlier.
Ahead of his talks with Obama, Sharif held a breakfast meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday as well.
The prime minister’s visit to the White House came a day after Amnesty International released a report providing new details about the alleged victims of US drone attacks in Pakistan, one of them a 68-year-old grandmother hit while farming with her grandchildren.
In Pakistan, there is widespread belief that American drone strikes kill large numbers of civilians.
The White House responded to the Amnesty report by defending the drone program, with Carney saying US counterterrorism operations “are precise, they are lawful and they are effective.”
Ahead of the withdrawal, the US is seeking to push through a peace deal with the Taliban and Afghan government.
Pakistan is seen as key to this process because of its historical connection to the Taliban. It helped the group grab power in Afghanistan in 1996 and is widely believed to have maintained ties as a hedge against neighbor and nuclear rival India – an allegation denied by Islamabad.
Ahead of his trip to the US, Sharif said he planned to ask Obama for American intervention in resolving the dispute between Pakistan and India in Kashmir.
On Wednesday, India accused Pakistani troops of firing guns and mortars on at least 50 Indian border posts overnight in Kashmir. Indian troops returned fire, but one Indian guard was killed and six were injured by a shell fired at the Arnia post in the Jammu region, he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan said Indian troops targeted 27 Pakistani posts near Sialkot in the last two days with machine guns and mortars. The Indians fired nearly 4,000 mortars and 59,000 machine gun rounds, and Pakistani troops responded, Pakistan’s military said.
During the last two weeks, Indian troops have killed two Pakistani civilians and a soldier and wounded 26 other civilians, it said.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid rejected the idea of US involvement, saying Kashmir was a ”bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.” – AP/Reuters/Dawn.com]]>