Obama likely to push for Pakistan-India talks resumption during India visit: report

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Sartaj Aziz says India’s desire for better Pak ties a bid to please Obama

PM’s adviser says Pakistan wants good relations with India but dialogue process will have to be resumed from where it was dropped

US President Barack Obama, visiting India at a time of escalating Pakistani-Indian tensions, is likely to raise the question of resumption of peace dialogue between the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbours, a newspaper report said on Saturday.

During the three-day trip to India, aimed at showcasing the expanding ties between New Delhi and Washington, Obama is likely to raise with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the issue of “how the two nuclear-armed neighbours can resume dialogue and reduce their hostilities,” administration officials and analysts say, according a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The pursuit of dialogue “is something that the United States has consistently supported, and we will continue to do so,” said Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser said this week, the paper reported.

India and Pakistan blame each other for starting the exchanges. Dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides have died in the bombardments, which have continued on and off since October, it noted.

The report says adding to their tensions, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief, this week delivered the most strongly worded attack on India since Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in June 2013, warning of “India’s dangerous desire to create a space for war.”

“Relations between India and Pakistan are in tatters,” said Sherry Rehman, a former Pakistani information minister and ex-ambassador to Washington. “I haven’t seen anything this bad since the Mumbai attack,” she said, referring to the storming in 2008 of the Indian city by a squad of militants from Pakistan that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The WSJ also quotes Joshua White, an analyst at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, who said that as long as India and Pakistan aren’t talking there is a heightened risk that a terrorist attack in India, or a spiraling border skirmish, could spark a crisis.

“President Obama is likely to urge Prime Minister Modi to resume some kind of dialogue with Pakistan,” said White. “To avoid being seen as chiding his host, the president probably intends to deliver this message behind closed doors.”

INDIA’S DESIRE FOR PEACE:

Meanwhile in Pakistan, PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj issued a statement about India’s desire to have good relations with Pakistan only to please American President Barack Obama.

Talking to media in Islamabad, Aziz said that India’s role in the region is not hidden from anyone, adding that Pakistan does not feel the need to officially respond to the Indian statement immediately.

“Pakistan is desirous of dialogue and good relations with India but the dialogue process can only be resumed from where it was left off, he said, adding that Pakistan never avoided negotiations “unlike India”.

The dialogue process can only be advanced if talks are held on basic issues, said Aziz but alleged that India has always influenced the dialogue process “and asked US to play a role in resolution of basic issues”.

Earlier, Indian Foreign Minister Swaraj had issued a statement expressing India’s desire of opening a “new era of relations with neighbouring countries including Bangladesh and Pakistan”.

Swaraj on Saturday stated that maintaining peace with (India’s) neighbouring countries including Pakistan is a “foremost priority” of India.

She also invited both Pakistan and Bangladesh to initiate a new phase of good-will relations with India based on mutual cooperation, adding that talks between countries should be in peaceful environment.

There is no issue in the world which cannot be resolved, the Indian foreign minister stated.