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US rejects Sharif's call to get involved on Kashmir
Monday October 21, 2013 8:54 AM, Arun Kumar, IANS

Even before Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed here for a four-day visit, the US rejected out of hand his call for Washington to get involved to resolve the Kashmir issue.

"On Kashmir, our policy has not changed an iota," a senior administration official said in a background conference call Sunday reiterating US' oft-stated stand that Kashmir issue was a bilateral one between the two South Asian neighbours.

While it encouraged a dialogue between the two countries "the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan's dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine with each other," the official said.

The official was responding to comments made earlier Sunday by Sharif in London on way to Washington that even though India does not want it, world powers should get involved to resolve the Kashmir issue.

The world powers should do so as India and Pakistan both were nuclear powers and the region was a nuclear flash point, he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press of Pakistan.

But the US official did expect "India to come up at some point" during Sharif's first meeting Wednesday with US President Barack Obama nearly a month after Indian Prime Minister's Sep 27 summit with Obama at the White House.

While the focus of the Obama-Sharif meeting would be bilateral relationship, including energy, economy and extremism, in addition to Afghanistan, the official said, "We expect India to come up at some point."

"We have been very encouraged by steps that both India and Pakistan have taken," he said "to resolve issues on the trade and energy side, in keeping with the "energy and economy theme" that Obama and Sharif would explore here.

"Obviously (they are) very positive," he said referring to the steps taken since Sharif's meeting with Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York just two days after a summit with Obama where he had called Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism.

Like India, US officials too expressed concern that terrorism emanating from inside Pakistan could derail on-going peace talks between India and Pakistan after Sharif was voted to power in May this year.

"Cleary we would be concerned about the terrorist groups that would derail that dialogue process," the official said.

Meanwhile, meeting Sharif over dinner Sunday night, Secretary of State John Kerry said "We're very anxious to have a series of high-level, important discussions over the course of the next few days - the Vice President (Joe Biden), the President, tonight's dinner."

"We have a lot to talk about and the relationship with Pakistan could not be more important. On its own, a democracy that is working hard to get its economy moving and deal with insurgency and also important to the regional stability," he said.

Sharif, who last visited Washington in 1999 during the Kargil war before he was overthrown in a coup by Gen Pervez Musharraf, will hold a series of meetings with the top US officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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