Sharif to Obama: raise Kashmir issue during visit

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked US President Barack Obama to take up the Kashmir issue with the Indian leadership when he travels to India in January, saying its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia.

Sharif made the request when Obama telephoned him last night to convey about his visit to India to attend the Republic Day celebrations as the chief guest and discussed bilateral ties and the regional situation.

He “urged President Obama to take up the cause of Kashmir with the Indian leadership, as its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia,” said a statement from Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office on the discussions between the two leaders.

During the call, Sharif also referred to his visit to India earlier this year to take relations forward.

He had travelled to New Delhi to attend the inauguration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May after the BJP’s victory in the general elections.

Sharif alleged that India subsequently took “unfortunate steps, including cancellation of Foreign Secretary-level talks” and “firing across the LoC resulting in civilian casualties” which showed that “India was averse to normalisation of relations with Pakistan.”

The Prime Minister said Pakistan “remains open to the resumption of bilateral dialogue, the onus is on India to create a conducive environment in this regard.”

“President Obama expressed his understanding for our position,” the statement said.

India had cancelled a Foreign Secretary-level meeting in August after Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi met Kashmiri separatists ahead of the talks.

Sharif also recalled an invitation he extended to Obama last year in Washington and conveyed the expectation of the people of Pakistan to welcome the US President to the country some time in the future.

“The President also assured the Prime Minister that he would undertake a visit to Pakistan at an early date, as soon as the situation normalises in the country,” it said.

The two leaders also discussed the regional situation.

The Prime Minister referred to the improvement of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations as manifest in President Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Islamabad.

Obama appreciated Prime Minister Sharif’s efforts in this regard and called it pivotal for the peace and stability in the region, the statement said.