Washington: President Barack Obama has said the US was “engaging” Pakistan over the issue of reining in terror groups like LeT after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted the continued threat of terrorism emanating from it and Islamabad’s lack of will to punish those responsible for 26/11.
Singh, who met Obama in Washington on Sunday night, said India was looking for a “convincing” action by Pakistan against perpetrators of Mumbai attacks and made it clear that the “future of South Asia would be determined by the manner in which terrorism is tackled.”
The Prime Minister also voiced apprehensions about misuse of US military supplies to Pakistan, prompting Obama to assure that India’s concerns in this regard would be kept in mind while dealing with the issue.
The US President also told Singh that the US was “supportive” of India’s request for access to Mumbai attacks accused Lashkar-e-Taiba’s David Headley and it was “working through legal systems” on the matter.
During the 50-minute meeting at the Blair House, Singh and Obama discussed a whole range of bilateral issues, besides Pakistan, situation in Afghanistan and global economic crisis.
Obama said he favoured reduction of tensions between India and Pakistan but the Manmohan Sigh made it clear that the “future of South Asia would be determined by the manner in which terrorism is tackled”.
Singh emphasized that Pakistan needed to take “convincing action” against those responsible for Mumbai attacks, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters while briefing the meeting.
Obama said the US understood India’s concerns with regard to activities of Lashkar-e Taiba and other terror groups from Pakistan and Afghanistan and that Washington was “engaging” Pakistan on these issues.
While talking about the menace of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Singh referred to Headley, activities of LeT and its chief Hafiz Saeed and al-Qaida terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, Rao said.
“Unfortunately, there is no will on part of Pakiistan to punish those responsible for terrorist attacks in Mumbai,” Rao quoted the Prime Minister as telling Obama.
“This is where partnership of India and the US could make the difference,” PM told Obama.
To a question, Rao said the fate of Indo-Pak dialogue had no connection with this meeting between Singh and Obama. She said the US as also the entire world was aware of India’s approach on dialogue with Pakistan.
“The US fully understands” India’s position on the dialogue.
India has suspended composite dialogue since the 26/11 attacks and has refused to resume it till Pakistan takes concrete and transparent action against those behind the terror strike.
Rao said, there would be no meeting between Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Washington during the Nuclear Security Summit but did not categorically rule out such a possibility in Bhutan during the upcoming SAARC Summit.
Sources said, Singh told Obama about India’s scepticism on Pakistan Army’s role and pressed the US to ensure that army’s influence diminished in Pakistan.
Obama said India has the goodwill and understanding in the US. Noting that shared Singh’s vision for South Asia, Obama said, he understands India’s interest in Afghanistan and recognizes its role. He expressed support to India’s continued assistance programme in Afghanistan.
While talking about Indo-US counter-terrorism cooperation, Obama said the US was working through legal systems for provision of access to Headley.
He said he was supportive of India’s request for provision of access. On India’s concerns over misuse of US military supplies to Pakistan, Obama said the US was sensitive to these worries and would monitor the end use of the material given.
Singh told Obama that India was poised for high economic growth of 9-10% but for it to happen, a climate of peace was needed in South Asia.
The Prime Minister said in ensuring this “architecture of high economic growth, what happens in our neighbourhood is of crucial importance”, Rao said.
“The terrorist onslaught in our region, if persisted, could affect our economic growth,” Singh told Obama while underlining the need for tackling the issue of terror.
“How this menace is tackled will determine the future of the South Asian region,” Singh said while specifically referring to happenings in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister said there had been “tremendous rise” in infiltration from Pakistan.
While seeking the US’ cooperation in putting pressure on Pakistan, Singh said India and the US stood on the same side on this issue of dealing with terrorism.
During the meeting, the issue of Civil Nuclear Liability Bill also came up with Obama hoping that it would be passed by Parliament as expeditiously as possible.
Singh told him that the bill was going through the democratic processes.
The passage of the bill, which is a crucial step in the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, has got caught in a political quagmire with opposition parties objecting to certain provisions in it, including the use of word ‘cap’ for Rs500 crore compensation to be paid by the operator in the case of a nuclear accident.
The government has indicated its readiness to made some changes in it and the bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament in the second part of the budget session starting on 15 April.
The two leaders, while reviewing the Indo-US ties, expressed satisfaction at the “good progress” made in the relations since they met last in November last year.
They said they were looking forward to the strategic dialogue to be held between the two countries on June 3. External affairs minister SM Krishna will be coming here for that purpose.
Singh also told Obama that India was eagerly looking forward to his first visit to the country.
The Prime Minister said Obama had “caught imagination of millions of people around the world, including those in India who were anxious to see him soon there”, the foreign secretary said.
The US President is expected to undertake the visit this year and dates for it are being finalized.