Washington, Oct 23: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif headed to the White House with little hope of getting much on his wish list — US mediation on Kashmir, nuclear parity with India and an end to drone strikes.
Sharif’s first meeting with President Barack Obama Wednesday, instead, may focus on terrorism emanating from Pakistan as the two sides sit down to find what the White House called “ways for our countries to cooperate, even as we have differences”.
Backing India’s stand that Pakistan is the “epicentre of terrorism”, an analyst has suggested that, “It certainly would be useful for the Obama administration to press Sharif hard on his country’s support for several terrorist groups,” including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind “the Mumbai massacre of 2008.”
The group “continues to openly operate in Pakistan,” wrote Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg.
Given the US focus on terrorism, a concern equally shared by India, Sharif’s plea to end drone strikes in Pakistan that he says “has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship” is also unlikely to make much headway.
Shortly after Sharif made a fresh plea Tuesday to end drone strikes, calling them “a continual violation of our territorial integrity,” the White House press secretary Jay Carney put up a vigorous defence of the strikes.
The US strongly disagrees with claims made in an Amnesty International report that the drone strikes violate international law, he said. The report had suggested that the US “appears to have committed very serious” human rights violations that might even amount to war crimes.
“US counter-terrorism operations are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective, and the United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists,” Carney said.
The United States takes “extraordinary care” to avoid the loss of civilian lives, he said, but there is “risk that exists in every war” that civilians will be harmed.
While the White House chose not to make a direct comment on Sharif’s latest plea to draw Washington into the Kashmir dispute, senior administration officials had shot down the idea even before Sharif landed here Sunday, saying, “On Kashmir, our policy has not changed an iota.”
Similarly, there is no traction in the US Congress on his hope for an India-like civil nuclear deal with “a non-discriminatory approach in fields like civil nuclear cooperation.”
Ahead of the meeting with Obama, Sharif had a breakfast meeting Wednesday with Vice President Joe Biden at his Naval Observatory residence.
Unlike Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama is not hosting any meal for Sharif and would meet him in the Oval office Wednesday after having lunch with his own vice president.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)