Obama assures PM support on Pakistan, Headley

Obama assures PM support on Pakistan, Headley

Obama's assurances on India's key concerns came at a 50-minute bilateral meeting on Sunday night at Blair House as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought US support in tackling "the menace of terrorism".

Reminding Obama that terrorism "was an issue on which India and the US stood on the same side," Manmohan Singh focused on the volatile situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan and stressed "how this menace was tackled would determine the future of the South Asian region."

Briefing reporters on the talks, India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao rejected reports about a disconnect between New Delhi and Washington on Pakistan-Afghanistan issues.

Rao said the prime minister took up the issue of Headley, the activities of LeT and its founder-ideologue Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai assault and Ilyas Kashmiri, another Pakistan-based terrorist leader linked with Headley.

He also pointed out continuing militant incursions across the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two countries in divided Kashmir.

When Obama spoke about reducing tensions between India and Pakistan, Manmohan Singh drew his attention to Islamabad's dilly-dallying over the prosecution of those involved in the Mumbai massacre.

"Unfortunately, there was no will on the part of Pakistan to punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai," Rao quoted Manmohan Singh telling Obama. "This is where the partnership of India and US could make the difference," said Manmohan Singh.

Obama, according to Rao, told Manmohan Singh that India has the goodwill and the understanding of the US in this regard. "Obama fully understood our concerns about LeT and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and said "the US is engaging Pakistan on these issues."

Obama told Manmohan Singh "the US would be sensitive to the issues that we have raised in the context of security assistance to Pakistan" and assured him that the aid would be monitored and kept under observation keeping India's interests in mind.

About cooperation between India and the US on counterterrorism, Obama told Manmohan Singh that "they were working through the legal system, on the issue of provision of access to David Coleman Headley". "He was fully supportive of our request for provision of such access," said Rao.

Obama also told Manmohan Singh that he shared his vision for South Asia. He said the US fully appreciated India's interests in Afghanistan and recognised the enormous sacrifices that India has made to stabilize that country and "expressed support for India's continuing contributions in Afghanistan's development."

On India-Pakistan relations, when Obama said the US favoured reduction of tensions between the two countries, Manmohan Singh again stressed the need for Pakistan to take convincing action against those involved in Mumbai attacks.

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