P.M. stresses that Islamabad’s priority is negotiating resolution to Kashmir crisis.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged the United States on Friday to take Pakistan’s side in its long-standing dispute with rival nuclear power India or run the risk of escalating conflict.
Speaking in Washington a day after talks with President Barack Obama, Sharif said Pakistan was ready to help Afghanistan revive peace talks with Taliban rebels. But he made it clear that his main priority was seeking international support to compel India to negotiate over the future of the disputed province of Kashmir. And he accused India of stepping up ceasefire violations across the rivals’ border.
“Obviously the Pakistan-India relationship poses the most difficult and urgent challenge,” Sharif said, in an address to the U.S. Institute for Peace. “I believe a close review of some of the existing assumptions and analysis and greater attention to Pakistan’s views and interests would be useful in enabling Washington to play a constructive role in averting the ever present danger of escalation and in promoting stability in South Asia.”
At the White House on Thursday, Sharif and Obama had agreed to help Afghanistan re-start peace talks that broke off in early August when it emerged that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had been dead for two years. Pakistan has been accused of covertly supporting the Afghan Taliban in its guerrilla campaign against Kabul and allied NATO forces.
Sharif insisted his country has no interest in backing the Taliban’s campaign of violence, but pleaded that Pakistan “cannot bring them to the table and be asked to kill them at the same time.”
Of far more importance, he suggested, was Islamabad’s relationship with India, pressuring Washington not to continue pursuing warmer ties with his giant neighbor. “There is no alternative for the two countries but to resume a comprehensive dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Pakistan and India both claim sovereignty over Kashmir and its current administration is split between the two, the regions separated by a tense ceasefire line.
Sharif attended Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration in May and said he had hoped to start a broader discussion but had been rebuffed. “While refusing dialogue India is engaged in a major arms build-up, regrettably with the active assistance of several powers,” he said. “It has adopted dangerous military doctrines. This will compel Pakistan to take several counter measures to preserve credible deterrence.”
Sharif did not name the powers he blames for arming India, but Delhi is overhauling and modernizing its armed forces with the help of several partners. Last month, for example, it signed a $3 billion deal with U.S. engineering giant Boeing for Apache attack helicopters and Chinook transports.