US backs resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue, says n-deal on track (Roundup)

June 11th, 2009 - 10:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) Making a strong pitch for resuming the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue, the US Thursday said it has been pressing Islamabad hard to take “firm and urgent action” against extremists and to bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to justice.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and held discussions on a wide range of issues that included India-US civil nuclear cooperation, the situation in Pakistan and the region and expanding defence relations between New Delhi and Washington.

Laying out an ambitious agenda for the next phase of partnership between India and the US ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to New Delhi next month, Burns handed over a letter from President Barack Obama to Manmohan Singh. The letter underscored Obama’s “commitment to broadening and deepening relations with India”, he said.

“The US views India as one of our key global partners in the 21st century. We can accomplish a lot together in the days to come,” he added. The letter also carries a formal invitation from Obama to Manmohan Singh to visit the US, sources said.

The Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai attacks figured prominently in the discussions.

While the US has been exhorting India to resume dialogue with Islamabad, Manmohan Singh is understood to have conveyed New Delhi’s disappointment over Pakistan’s inaction and said he will wait for Islamabad to take tangible action against the terrorists behind the Mumbai mayhem before taking this crucial decision. He also sought more US pressure over Pakistan to act against anti-India terrorists.

“The US has always welcomed dialogue between India and Pakistan and steps to improve relationship between the two important neighbours. The pace, scope and character of the dialogue has to be decided by the two countries,” Burns told reporters here.

Burns added that the issue figured in his discussions with Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Burns, however, treaded cautiously on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

“The resolution of this issue has to take into account the aspirations of Kashmiris,” he said, reiterating Washington’s well-calibrated line on Kashmir.

While the US favoured better relations between India and Pakistan, Burns said Washington has made it clear to Islamabad that it has a “special responsibility” to act “firmly and immediately” against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks and bring them to justice.

Burns’ emphasis on resuming the India-Pakistan dialogue acquires added significance in view of the likely meeting between Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg next week.

Amid apprehensions in India about billions of dollars of US aid to Pakistan being diverted for anti-India activities, a fear that was reinforced by recent disclosures from Pentagon that the aid was misused during the Bush administration, Burns assured that the US will “monitor closely” how the funds were spent.

“The problem of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan is a very real one. The US is working along with its international partners to strengthen Pakistan’s ability to take on that challenge,” he said.

“The assistance money is part of this solution. We will look at this assistance carefully and monitor in the US Congress to ensure it is used for purposes for which it is meant,” he said.

Asked if the US was satisfied with Pakistan’s action against the Taliban and assorted extremists in the northwestern region, Burns said while the US appreciated Islamabad’s action, it has been pushing that country very very hard to act against extremists.

Burns, however, chose to skirt a question on the release of Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD) chief Hafeez Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai carnage, by a Pakistani court, a move that has already been condemned by Washington.

Upbeat about the future trajectory of India-US relations, Burns said the US was committed to its civil nuclear deal with India and would begin negotiations on a crucial reprocessing agreement before the end of July.

He also struck an optimistic note about expanding India-US defence ties and said he was hopeful of signing a contentious end-user verification agreement soon.

Burns, who arrived here Wednesday on a four-day visit, also met several Indian leaders including Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan.

Burns is the highest ranking US official to visit India after the general elections and the return to power of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

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