Lalit K Jha
WASHINGTON, July 15: Ruling out any solution from “outside” to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday underlined that disputes between India and Pakistan can only be resolved by the two countries themselves.
Welcoming the Indo-Pak dialogue process, he said, “It is not the place of any nation, including the United States, to try to impose solutions from the outside.
“That said, nations must meet their responsibilities and all of us have a profound interest in a Pakistan that is stable, prosperous and democratic.”
The U.S. leader was responding to a question on the current state of Indo-Pak relations and the best way forward for the two countries to resolve their bilateral matters, including Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr. Obama told PTI that the U.S. welcomed any dialogue and lessening of Indo-Pak tensions which would be good for South Asia and for the world.
“President (Asif Ali) Zardari’s visit to India was encouraging. Increased trade and people-to-people contacts between Indians and Pakistanis can lead to greater prosperity and understanding on both sides.
“Efforts in New Delhi and Islamabad to improve relations give hope for further progress, including a possible visit to Pakistan by Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh,” he said.
The US leader answered questions on the future of Afghanistan and India’s role in it, as well as the US strategy in the Asia-Pacific region which is seen by some commentators as aimed at making India a counterweight to the growing military and economic muscle of China.
“India will be critical to Afghanistan’s future,” he said pointing out that it had also been critical to Afghanistan’s progress to date.
The U.S. President said India’s generous contributions have helped India to train Afghan police, promote development and improve the lives of the Afghan people.
India was the first nation to forge a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, and India’s civil service can be a model as Afghans strengthen their own governance and institutions, he said.
Mr. Obama said in hosting the recent conference on private investment in Afghanistan, India has shown a readiness to champion the nation’s economic development.
As a result of this spring’s NATO Summit in Chicago, he said they now had a clear path for bringing the war to a responsible end.
Next year, in mid-2013, Afghan forces would take the lead for combat operations and coalition forces would have shifted from combat to support across the country and their troops would continue to come home, the President said.
“By the end of 2014, the transition to Afghan lead for security will be complete so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country.
“After 2014, NATO will continue to train, advise and assist and support Afghan forces as they grow stronger.
Likewise, the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the US signed with Afghanistan, as well as our designation of Afghanistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally, makes it clear that we will not abandon that country, or the region, to terrorists who threaten us as well,” he said.