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Obama snubs Sharif on drones, Kashmir

world Updated: Oct 25, 2013 01:19 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Nawaz Sharif

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday urged President Barack Obama to end US drone strikes in Pakistan that have strained ties between the two countries in recent years.

He also told the US president he was committed to resolving all outstanding issues with India — including Kashmir — peacefully, through negotiations. He didn't seek US intervention.

And he was not offered one, in line with US's hands-off policy for years now. Sharif also didn't get anything on drone strikes other than a vague offer of respect for "Pakistan's sovereignty". Obama asked Sharif about the progress on the Mumbai terror trial, and about Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Lashkar-i-Tayyeba front operating in full view despite a ban.

"I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting," Sharif said at a joint press appearance with Obama, "emphasising the need for an end to such strikes."

Obama said he and Sharif had during their discussion on security issues agreed to find "ways that respect Pakistan's sovereignty (and) the concerns of both countries".

Sharif raised both issues as expected, essentially to address concerns at home in Pakistan, but he was never expected to get anything remotely substantial on either. This visit was all about getting Pakistan and the US talking again, ending years of chill following the bin Laden raid, current and former US and Pakistani officials have said.

Relations had been deteriorating since, helped along by other flash points and continued strikes by CIA-operated unmanned aircraft called drones. But Washington Post reported on Wednesday Pakistan was always in the loop. It secretly endorsed the strikes and received regular briefings about them.

The report cited secret CIA and Pakistani diplomatic documents to contend Islamabad knew of and endorsed dozens of such strikes between 2007 and 2011. The two leaders also discussed Pakistan's ties with India. Obama remarked on the progress, referring to Manmohan Singh's meeting with Sharif last month.

And Sharif said he was committed to finding a peaceful solution to all issues, including Kashmir. Pakistani leaders tend to raise Kashmir in the US, hoping to get Washington involved.

But the US has shown no interest.

Mood in Pakistan
Most people in Pakistan hope that Sharif's visit to the US may end the drone strikes in the country. Many view the meeting as "an honest effort Sharif to make the American leadership aware of the cost of the attacks."

Leader of the JUI-F party and member of parliament from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the media in Islamabad on Thursday that Sharif's meetings and speeches in the US "have raised hopes that the drone attacks may come to an end."