Bush thanks Manmohan for briefing on South Asia

September 26th, 2008 - 3:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Sep 26 (IANS) In a sign of growing convergence of approach on countering growing terrorism in South Asia, US President George Bush Thursday thanked Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for “his briefing” on India’s neighbourhood that will help him forge a balanced policy towards the region. “I thank you for your advice on a range of matters. I appreciated very much your briefing on the neighbourhood in which you live,” Bush told Manmohan Singh in the presence of media persons at the Oval Office in the White House.

“It’s very informative and it helps me make decisions and formulate policy,” he added.

Bush’s remarks nearly coincided with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York where he underlined Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terrorism. Striking a conciliatory note, Zardari also spoke about “peacefully resolving outstanding problems” with India and building South Asia into “a common market of trade and technology.”

Speaking to reporters in New York, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon took note of the focus on terrorism in Zardari’s speech. He also alluded to the India-Pakistan joint statement after talks between Manmohan Singh and Zardari on the sidelines of the UNGA Wednesday in which the two sides agreed to jointly combat terrorism.

Bush’s remarks also underlined the increasing realization in Washington to seek a stronger partnership with India in countering the festering militancy in Pakistan’s tribal lands bordering Afghanistan which it has come to see as the epicentre of global terrorism. The US’ recent unilateral strikes in Waziristan have provoked outrage in Pakistan which decried it as violation of its sovereignty.

It also reflected the Bush administration’s increasing exasperation with the powers-that-be in Islamabad for their failure in reining in terrorism and a growing perception that Pakistan pocketed billions of dollars the US gave it for the war against terror without any tangible change in its continuing patronage of the Taliban.

In his UNGA address, Zardari asserted his country’s anti-terror record and alluded to the assassination of his wife, Benazir, a former prime minister, to underscore that Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism. “It is time for the world to take notice. We are not the cause of the problem of terrorism, we are its victims,” he said.

“We are an aggrieved nation, not one that has caused grief. We have fought this battle largely alone. We have shared our air bases, our air space, our intelligence, and our armed forces in a coordinated effort to contain terrorism,” Zardari added.

The US suspended visa services at its consular offices in Pakistan following a massive suicide bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital Islamabad Sept 20, the State Department said.

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