NEW YORK - As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prepared for his crucial meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh here on Sunday, the Indian leader used his visit to Washington Friday to snipe at Pakistan, calling it the epicentre of terrorism.
At the same time, Singh said he was looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Sharif, but that expectations were down after Thursday's attacks in Jammu.
Speaking to reporters after talks with US President Barack Obama at White House, he said the expectations had to be lowered given "the terror arm which is still active in our sub-continent."
On his talks with Obama, he said, "We discussed the situation in the region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. I explained to President Obama the difficulties that we face given the fact that the epicentre of terror still remains focused in Pakistan."
On his part, President Obama underscored the United States desire to see “peaceful reduction of tensions” in South Asia, as he discussed the strained Pakistan-India relations with Singh.
“We also had an opportunity to discuss the tensions that continue to exist in the subcontinent,” Obama said.
Obama said he had a chance to discuss Pakistan and “our shared interest in seeing a peaceful reduction of tensions on the subcontinent.” “We want to very much thank Prime Minister Singh for what has been a consistent interest in improving cooperation between India and Pakistan,” said Obama, who will receive Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a few weeks at White House.
Washington has been supportive of Pakistan-India dialogue for peace between the two South Asian nuclear neighbours.
At the United Nations, Prime Minister Sharif renewed his desire for peace and security in the region and said the two countries should make a new beginning towards peace. He also urged a peaceful resolution to the Jammu and Kashmir resolution.
In his remarks, Indian prime minister said he “explained to President Obama the difficulties that we face, given the fact that the (presence) of terrorists still remains focused in Pakistan. And I look forward to meeting with (Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif, even though the expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent.”
With regard to Afghanistan, Obama said the United States and India had a shared interest in making sure that Afghanistan continued on its path to a peaceful democratic country, and both shared an interest in making sure that “we help Afghans stand up for the rights of all groups inside of Afghanistan -- that the rights of women and minority groups are protected and that the upcoming election happens in a way that maintains and continues to strengthen stability in that troubled country”.
Pakistan and India saw their tensions reignited this summer over ceasefire violations along Line of Control in the disputed region of Kashmir, considered the underlying cause of tensions between the two countries.
Addressing a joint media interaction after talks with Dr Singh, Obama disclosed that the two countries had sealed the agreement. "We've made enormous progress on the issue of civilian nuclear power, and in fact, have been able to achieve just in the last few days an agreement on the first commercial agreement between a US company and India on civilian nuclear power," Obama said.
The meeting between Obama and Dr Singh came amid concerns that the close partnership between the US and India has stagnated in recent years. Obama also hailed India's progress on civilian nuclear power. The two leaders said they were focused on reducing India's poverty. The Indian premier is currently in the United States on a two-day official visit to attend the UN General Assembly session.