By Arun Kumar
Washington, Nov 20 (IANS) Amid reports that Pakistani Army chief Raheel Sharif had raised the Kashmir issue with Secretary of State John Kerry, the US said it was for India and Pakistan to work out issues between them.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday that he was not aware whether Kashmir or the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba had come up during Wednesday meeting between Sharif and Kerry.
“No, I’m well aware of the lives lost in the Mumbai attacks. Look, I don’t have great detail in terms of every item discussed,” he said when asked if the Mumbai attacks in which six American lives were lost among 164 people killed and Kashmir were discussed.
“As for Kashmir, all I would say is we continue to be concerned about any violence along the Line of Control,” Kirby said.
“And we continue to urge the governments of both India and Pakistan to reduce tensions along that line and to resume dialogue to address these issues,” he said. “This is for the two parties to work out.”
Kirby said Kerry met “Sharif to follow up on some of the security-related conversations that he had with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October.”
“The general’s consultations in Washington were part of our regular ongoing bilateral discussions with a broad range of Pakistani officials, and we appreciate the productive discussions we had regarding our bilateral defence and security relationship.”
Kerry, he said, “reaffirmed our commitment to the US-Pakistan partnership and its importance in addressing issues of mutual concern and ensuring peace, stability, and prosperity across the region.”
Declining to go into any more detail, the spokesman said Kerry appreciated the discussion “and was grateful for. This is an important relationship. It’s a complex relationship, and it’s one we want to continue to improve.”
Sharif, who is here without an official invitation from Washington, also met Vice President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday. “The meeting, which followed the Vice President’s October 22 breakfast in Washington with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, addressed ongoing efforts to strengthen US-Pakistan relations,” according to a White House readout.
Biden, it said, “reaffirmed the United States’ interest in building a strong partnership with Pakistan that addresses our shared counterterrorism, economic, and regional security concerns.”
He thanked Gen. “Sharif for his steadfast support to counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and underscored the importance of expanding efforts to help further strengthen regional security.”
“Both leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to peace in Afghanistan and the important role that the United States and Pakistan can play to support a reinvigorated reconciliation process in coordination with Afghanistan,” it said.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])