US Engaging Pakistan Over Terror, Obama Tells Manmohan

By Manish Chand and Arun Kumar

Washington, Apr 12 (IANS): President Barack Obama has assured India that the US is engaging Pakistan on the issue of terrorism and shares India's concerns over terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba plotting terror against New Delhi.

He also expressed full support for India's request for access to David Coleman Headley, a key plotter of the Mumbai massacre who is currently in the US custody.

Obama's assurances on India's key concerns came at a 50-minute bilateral meeting Sunday at Blair House, the presidential guest house across the road from the White House, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought the US support in tackling "the menace of terrorism".

"Terrorist onslaught in our region, if it persisted, could affect our growth prospects," Manmohan Singh told Obama at their first meeting since they met at the first state dinner of the Obama presidency in November last year.

Reminding Obama that terrorism "was an issue on which India and the US stood on the same side," Manmohan Singh focused on the volatile situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan and stressed "how this menace was tackled would determine the future of the South Asian region."

Briefing reporters on the talks, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao rejected reports about disconnect between India and the US on Pakistan-Afghanistan issues.

Rao said the prime minister took up the issue of Headley, the activities of LeT and its founder-ideologue Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai attacks and Ilyas Kashmiri, another Pakistan-based terrorist leader linked with Headley.

He also pointed out continuing infiltration across the Line of Control.

When Obama spoke about reducing tensions between India and Pakistan, Manmohan Singh drew his attention to Islamabad's dilly-dallying over the prosecution of those involved in the Mumbai massacre.

"Unfortunately, there was no will on the part of Pakistan to punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai," Rao quoted Manmohan Singh telling Obama.

"?this is where the partnership of India and US could make the difference," said Manmohan Singh.

Obama, according to Rao, told Manmohan Singh that India has the goodwill and the understanding of the US in this regard. "Obama fully understood our concerns about LeT and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and said "the US is engaging Pakistan on these issues."

Obama told Manmohan Singh "the US would be sensitive to the issues that we have raised in the context of security assistance to Pakistan" and assured him that the aid would be monitored and kept under observation keeping India's interests in mind.

About cooperation between India and the US on counterterrorism, Obama told Manmohan Singh that "they were working through the legal system, on the issue of provision of access to David coleman Headley". "He was fully supportive of our request for provision of such access," said Rao.

Obama also told Manmohan Singh that he shared his vision for South Asia. He said the US fully appreciated India's interests in Afghanistan and recognised the enormous sacrifices that India has made to stabilize that country and "expressed support for India's continuing contributions in Afghanistan's development."

On India-Pakistan relations, when Obama said the US favoured reduction of tensions between the two countries, Manmohan Singh again stressed the need for Pakistan to take convincing action against those involved in Mumbai attacks.




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