Pakistan promises action against LeT; Obama, Sharif talk Indo-Pak ties

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Oct 23, 2015 01:16 IST
US President Barack Obama meets Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Thursday. (REUTERS)

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told President Barack Obama Thursday Pakistan was resolved to act against Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates and all UN-designated terrorist outfits.

Sharif also outlined for Obama actions Pakistan was taking to ensure the Haqqani Network — which has been called a “veritable arm” of the ISI — did not operate from its soil.

Sharif’s assurances, of which the one on Lashkar will be greeted with some skepticism in India, came during a two-hour meeting with Obama at the White House, their second in two years.

India, joined by the US, has been urging Pakistan to shut down LeT, and its affiliates, and punish those of its members guilty of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Obama and Sharif also discussed Kashmir, expressed concern over violence along the LoC, and agreed India and Pakistan must resolve all disputes, including Kashmir, through dialogue, according to a joint statement issued by the two countries.

“In this context, the Prime Minister apprised the President about Pakistan’s resolve to take effective action against United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates, as per its international commitments and obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force,” said the joint statement.

The joint statement did not mention Obama administration’s reported decision to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan as reported by US media, or a nuclear deal between the two countries.

There was also no mention of allegations against India of meddling in Pakistan, which were reportedly contained in three dossiers Sharif gave Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday.

In the run up to the White House meeting, Sharif used every engagement and interaction to raise India and Kashmir as all visiting Pakistani leaders have always done.

In a meeting with US senators, Sharif insisted third party intervention was needed to resolve Kashmir and for which the US “would be the most relevant (third party)”.

The US clearly doesn’t agree as the joint statement said that all disputes must be resolved through “a sustained and resilient dialogue process between the two neighbours”.

This is an old Islamabad ploy — to try and drag the US into the Kashmir dispute, which India insists must be resolved only through bilateral dialogue. The US agrees, clearly.

The two leaders also discussed Afghanistan as they were expected to after the recent US decision to commit a larger and longer presence there in view of the evolving security situation.

They agreed to an “Afghan owned and -led peace and reconciliation process” and called on Taliban leaders to “enter into direct talks with Kabul”.

Sharif’s assurance on the Haqqani Network came up in the context of the discussion on Afghanistan. “The Prime Minister outlined the actions that Pakistan is taking under the National Action Plan to ensure that the Taliban – including the Haqqani Network – are unable to operate from the soil of Pakistan,” said the joint statement.

No major breakthroughs or announcements were expected from the talks and none came. The sale of 8 F-16s, to bolster ties with a dodgy one-time ally, may come later, according to reports.

Congress, which will have the last word on the sale as it controls the administration’s purse strings, could, however, block it given its recent history of antipathy for Pakistan.

“We remain deeply concerned that Pakistan has failed to take meaningful action against key Islamist terrorist groups operating within its territory,” two lawmakers wrote earlier to John Kerry.

It’s clear to many in congress, as it is to New Delhi, which is following Sharif’s US visit closely, that Pakistan will use these aircraft against India, and not to fight terrorists. Pakistan has built up a fleet of 70 F-16s over the years.

Read: ‘Pak has 110-130 nukes, to be world’s 5th largest N-power by 2025’

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