US to Persuade India to Re-Engage With Pakistan | Kamran Yousaf

ISLAMABAD: After India rejected Pakistan’s proposals for bilateral dialogues, the United States has assured that it will persuade New Delhi to pursue talks with Islamabad on all issues, including the longstanding dispute over Himalayan region of Kashmir, officials said on Sunday.

The assurance was given by US President Barack Obama during his talk with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Washington DC last week, a senior official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune.

Speaking off the record, the official added that the Obama administration will ‘privately’ convey to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that negotiations are the only way forward to deescalate tensions with Pakistan.

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New Delhi has always been opposed to intervention from any other country on its ties with Islamabad, the most recent affirmation of which came from its External Affairs Ministry’s spokesperson soon after Nawaz’s meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

But Pakistan hopes Washington’s influence over New Delhi, owing to their strategic partnership, will once again bring the two hostile but hyphenated neighbours back to the negotiating table.

Pakistan and India have failed to hold bilateral dialogues since 2014 when the latter scuppered a scheduled meeting between their  foreign secretaries over what Nawaz termed a ‘flimsy excuse’. This year the proposed National Security Advisor-level talks were called off at the eleventh hour amid violence along the border and New Delhi’s insistence on limiting the agenda of the meeting to terrorism. Backchannel talks at the UN General Assembly in New York in late September also failed.

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“One hopes India will resume comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan without any pre-conditions,” the official added.

In their joint statement, issued after the Washington talks, Obama and Nawaz stressed that improvement in Pakistan-India bilateral relations would greatly enhance prospects for lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

The two leaders also expressed concerns over increasing violence along the Line of Control, and emphasised the importance of an uninterrupted and resilient dialogue process between the two nuclear-tipped neighbours aimed at resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir.

“The joint statement illustrates that the US is clearly asking India to re-engage with Pakistan,” said the official.

To further woo India for talks, Nawaz pledged to take ‘effective action’ against UN-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates, a group frequently blamed by New Delhi for the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Reacting to the joint statement, India welcomed Pakistan’s commitment to take action against terror groups. In a statement, the Indian External Affairs Ministry expressed New Delhi’s desire for resolution of all issues with Pakistan but dismissed any third party mediation on Kashmir.

Washington is seeking de-escalation between the two neighbours as it fears that further deterioration in relations can undermine efforts to establish long-term peace in Afghanistan.

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A day after the Obama-Nawaz meeting, State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said tensions between Pakistan and India were best addressed through continued dialogue.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.

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