Biden discusses Mumbai attacks with Zardari: NYT

January 10th, 2009 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanWashington, Jan 10 (IANS) US Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden has discussed the Mumbai terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad, the New York Times reported Saturday.The influential US daily, in a report from Islamabad, provided no details on the meeting Friday, but cited an unnamed senior Pakistani government official as saying Biden talked in depth about the long-term relationship between the US and Pakistan and how the challenges of Islamic militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan were closely linked.

Biden, the Pakistani official said, spoke about how progress in Afghanistan required that the problem of Islamic militancy in Pakistan also be addressed. Biden’s “focus was more on Afghanistan, how to stabilise it and how to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda”, the official told the Times.

He also said Biden had not only met with Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, but also took the unusual step of meeting with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the newly appointed head of the country’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Times said an aide to Biden declined to comment on the meetings, except to say that the vice president-elect emphasised to the Pakistani officials that he was not making any commitments on the part of the incoming administration, and that Biden was mainly in a “listening mode” during the sessions.

Pakistan’s civilian government is new and shaky, and much real power has historically rested with military commanders and top-ranking spymasters who have had a history of militant sympathies, the US daily noted. Pakistani leaders contend that those militant loyalties are now in decline, but some American officials are sceptical, it said.

Officially, Biden is travelling in a fact-finding capacity as a senator, a job he will leave to be sworn in with Obama Jan 20. But among Pakistani officials, the trip was widely viewed as the first visit by the Obama administration, the Times said.

The integrity and allegiance of Pakistani security forces are a critical focus for Biden, who has been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it said.

He sponsored legislation that would greatly expand non-military aid to Pakistan for schools, hospitals and other programmes, but the US could also curtail arms sales and billions of dollars in military aid unless Pakistani security forces demonstrate a serious commitment to action against militants.

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