ISLAMABAD: Soon after accepting Indian invitation to Republic Day celebrations in January, US President Barack Obama phoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to inform him about his decision to visit Delhi.

“President Obama infor­med the prime minister of his forthcoming visit to India,” a late night Foreign Office statement on the telephonic conversation bet­ween President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif said.

The prime minister on this occasion reiterated invitation to President Obama to visit Pakistan.

“The President (Obama) also assured the Prime Minister (Sharif) that he would undertake a visit to Pakistan at an early date, as soon as the situation normalises in the country,” the statement said without elaborating if the US president was talking about normalisation of the security situation or the political unrest.

President Obama’s telephonic call is believed to be for calming the sensitivities of Pakistan about his preference for India.

The US president, according to the FO statement, “noted that Pakistan-US rela­tions were strong and robust”.

The exchange, FO underscored, was marked by cordiality.

Regional situation particularly the deteriorating Pak-India ties due to escalation along the Line of Control and Working Boundary were discussed during the conversation.

Mr Sharif pointed out that India’s belligerent attitude towards Pakistan “indicated that India was averse to normalisation of relations with Pakistan”.

Relations between Pakis­tan and India have historically remained tense. But marked deterioration in bilateral ties has been seen noticed since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power except for a couple of cordial exchanges between the two premiers soon after the installation of the new government.

PM Sharif travelled to India to attend Mr Modi’s inauguration, where the two leaders pledged to work for resumption of bilateral peace dialogue and agreed to a meeting of foreign secretaries for this purpose. Subsequently, Mr Sharif sent a gift of Sari for Mr Modi’s mother.

This apparent bonhomie was soon overtaken by acrimony. Planned foreign secretaries’ talks were called off by India and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary intensified leading to heavy civilian casualty. Fifteen Pakistani citizens and a soldier have been killed in the latest phase of shelling by India that started in the first week of October.   

Prime Minister Sharif asked President Obama to play his role for defusing the situation and said that “while we remain open to the resumption of bilateral dialogue, the onus is on India to create a conducive environment in this regard”.

“The Prime Minister also urged President Obama to take up the cause of Kashmir with the Indian leadership, as its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia,” the statement further said.

It said that President Obama understood Pakis­tani situation and the two leaders agreed to remain engaged for promoting peace in South Asia, besides strengthening Pak-US ties.

Published in Dawn, November 22th , 2014

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