The Obama Administration would help in "every possible way" to settle the Kashmir problem and to resume the stalled Indo-Pak dialogue, a top US official said in Islamabad on Thursday responding to Islamabad's request for assistance in resolving the "core issue" with New Delhi.
"The US government would help in every possible way for the resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India and for resolution of the core issues like Kashmir dispute and water distribution between the two countries," visiting American National Security Adviser James Jones was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad.
The statement came after a meeting between Jones, who arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday following a brief visit to Afghanistan, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
During the meeting, Gilani called on "the world at large and the US in particular to play their role towards resolution of the core issue of Kashmir as well as the water issue between Pakistan and India."
He explained to Jones that US assistance in settling outstanding issues with India "would help Pakistan focus on fighting against extremism and terrorism on its western border to ensure peace and stability of the South Asian region."
Last week, President Barack Obama had firmly ruled out any US mediation on the Kashmir issue, saying that dialogue between India and Pakistan is the best way to reduce tensions between them.
Describing both India and Pakistan as "great friends" of the US, Obama had said Washington wanted to be "helpful" in reducing the Indo-Pak tensions but cannot dictate to them how they should resolve their differences.
Jones, who is touring the region to assess the security situation, yesterday met Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. He also called on President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday. Jones is scheduled to hold talks with the Indian leadership on the last leg of his trip.
During his parleys with Jones, Gilani expressed concerns about a possible influx of refugees from Afghanistan in the wake of the deployment of additional US and NATO forces in the neighbouring country.
He called for ending US drone attacks in the tribal belt to ensure the success of Pakistan's strategy for isolating militants from tribesmen.
Gilani also expressed disappointment at the international community's stand on his country's efforts to combat terrorism, saying "the world response to help Pakistan win against these evil forces and to provide relief to the dislocated people had not been adequate."
He asked the US to write off Pakistan's debt to help the country overcome its immediate economic difficulties and make up for the economic losses it has suffered in the fight against terrorism.
While Pakistan's anti-terror campaign in the restive Malakand division was "now nearing a successful conclusion," the promises of building the capacity of its law enforcement agencies still remained unfulfilled, Gilani said. Once the military action is over, the law enforcement agencies would have to take over. They needed to be strengthened through new recruitment, proper training and adequate equipment and should also be provided a social safety net to cater for families of personnel in case of casualties, he said.
The dignified return of people displaced by the fighting in Malakand must be facilitated for "winning the hearts and minds of the people," Gilani said, adding the international community would have to fulfil its responsibility in this regard.
Jones assured Gilani that the US administration "would do everything it could to help Pakistan."
He reaffirmed President Barack Obama's desire to have "long term, multifaceted and strategic cooperation with Pakistan under a new comprehensive regional strategy."
He also lauded the Pakistan Army's "successful operation against terrorists."
A statement issued by the US embassy said Jone's meetings with Pakistan's top civilian and military leadership had "focussed on implementing President Obama's comprehensive regional engagement strategy while strengthening the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship."
The US and Pakistan are "enhancing border cooperation, trade, energy and economic development to help Pakistanis face the challenges posed by extremists," Jones was quoted as saying. "Terrorism is not simply the enemy of America – it is a direct and urgent threat to the Pakistani people."
During his discussions with the Pakistani leadership, Jones focussed on the current challenges facing the country and ways to coordinate efforts with Islamabad in "implementing the new shared comprehensive strategy."