No solution from outside on Kashmir: Obama

Ruling out any solution from "outside" to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, US President Barack Obama today 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 US 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.

Obama told PTI that the US 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 US 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.

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 not abandon that country, or the region, to terrorists who threaten us as well," he said.

On commentators' view that US wants India to be a counterweight to the growing China in the region, Obama said after a decade in which the US was largely focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he made a strategic decision that as a Pacific power, the US would play a larger and long-term role in shaping the future of the Asia Pacific because this region was vital to American security and prosperity.

"Our efforts are aimed at no nation. On the contrary, our increased engagement in the region -- in concert with allies and partners -- is designed to advance the security, prosperity and dignity of people all across the region," he said.

The President said the US has, therefore, strengthened its key alliances, including with Japan, South Korea and Australia, and worked to deepen partnerships with emerging powers, including India.

"In fact, our efforts compliment India's own 'Look East' policy of greater engagement in East Asia. Our two nations are working more closely together, with other partners, in regional organisations like ASEAN and the East Asia Summit.

"We recognise that freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean and other shipping lanes is critical to our prosperity and the global economy. We are now now India's largest military training partner, and we look forward to deepening our cooperation in the years ahead to meet shared challenges, including humanitarian crises and disaster relief," he said.

He said the US valued its growing partnership with India because it advanced its mutual security -- not as a counterweight to any nation.

"As I've said many times, the US welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China that contributes to regional and global security, prosperity and peace.

"That's why we continue to pursue a cooperative relationship with China, including greater cooperation between our militaries so we're promoting understanding and reducing the chances of miscalculation.

"I've always rejected the zero-sum notion that one nation's success has to come at another nation's expense, and I continue to believe that a secure, stable and prosperous Asia Pacific will benefit all our nations," the President said.

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