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Progress by Pak in tackling terror not as quick as we like: Obama

US President Barack Obama today said the progress by Pakistan in fighting terrorism was not as quick as "we would like" and asserted that they were working with Islamabad to eradicate extremism which is a "cancer."

mumbai Updated: Nov 07, 2010 15:12 IST

US President Barack Obama on Sunday said the progress by Pakistan in fighting terrorism is not quick as "we would like" and asserted that they were working with Islamabad to eradicate extremism which is a "cancer".

Noting that there are going to be some elements in Pakistan that are affiliated with Taliban, Al Qaeda and LeT, he said they are "irreconcilable" and there needs to be a military response to those who perpetrate violence like they did in Mumbai and New York in a "significant, ongoing" way.

Obama also observed that it would surprise Indians when he says this that it is in India's interest that Pakistan remains "peaceful, stable and prosperous" and that the US will work with Islamabad to reject extremism which is a "cancer" which threatens to engulf it.

Interacting with students of St Xaviers College here in a typical US town-hall style meeting, he expressed confidence that in time, trust develops between India and Pakistan and dialogue begins perhaps from "less controversial issues building upto more controversial issues".

"India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side, this will not happen tomorrow but needs to be the ultimate goal. The US can be a partner but cannot impose this process. India and Pakistan have their own understanding," he said.

He made these comments when a girl student asked why Pakistan was not being declared a terrorist state by the US. Obama reacted that it was a good question and said "I must admit that I was expecting it".

Obama said Pakistan is an "enormous" country, a strategically important country not just for the US but for the world, a country whose people have enormous potential.

"But it also right now a country within which there are some of the extremist elements that we discussed in the first question (related to jehad). That is not unique to Pakistan, it exists.

"Pakistan government is very aware of that and what we have tried to do in the last several years to engage aggresively with Pakistan government to communicate that we want nothing more than a stable, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan," he said.

The US President said they would work with Pakistan government in order to eradicate this extremism that they considered as a cancer which can potentially engulf the country.

"I think Pakistan government understands now the potential threat that exists within their own border. Lot more Pakistanis were killed by terrorists inside Pakistan than probably anywhere else...I think there is a growing recognition but it is something that does not happen overnight," Obama said.

He said he was absolutely convinced that the country that has the biggest stake in Pakistan's success is India.

"I think that if Pakistan is unstable, that is bad for India. And if Pakistan is stable and prosperous, that is good for India because India is on the move. It is absolutely in India's interest that stability in Pakistan is stability in the region," he said.

"Our feeling has been to be honest and forthright with Pakistan to say we are your friend, this (extremism) is a problem and we will help you but the problem has to be addressed," he said.

Asked about his views on jehad and jehadis, Obama regreted that the great religion of Islam is in the hands of a few extremists and has been "distorted" to justify violence towards innocent people.

"One of the challenges we face how do we isolate those who have these distorted notions of religious war," he said as he spoke of the need to "fundamentally" reject the notion that "violence is the way to mediate our differences".

The President said the existence of diverse religious beliefs was a 'major challenge' not only in India but also around the world.

First Published: Nov 07, 2010 13:19 IST