Obama to skip Pakistan during his visit to India
Published: Thursday, Oct 21, 2010, 11:13 IST | Updated: Thursday, Oct 21, 2010, 15:02 IST
Place: Washington, DC | Agency: PTI
US President Barack Obama will skip Pakistan when he makes his first visit to India and East Asia next month as American officials sought Islamabad's support for peace talks with the Taliban and pressed the country to take firm military action against militant groups in restive north Waziristan.
The White House said the president had committed to travel to Pakistan next year and was looking forward to welcoming Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to Washington soon.
Obama conveyed this to a visiting high-level delegation from Pakistan, who are here to participate in the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue, the White House said in a statement, scotching speculations that the President might make an unannounced visit to Islamabad and Kabul before touching down in New Delhi.
"The President explained that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his trip to Asia next month, and committed to visiting Pakistan in 2011", the statement said.
The visiting Pakistani delegation was led by foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.
During his meeting with the Pakistani delegation, Obama stressed that Washington and Islamabad should move towards a "true partnership" based on mutual respect and common interest.
"The president and the Pakistani delegation agreed on the need for regional stability and cooperating towards a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan", the statement said.
Earlier, in an attempt to simmer down tensions flamed by recent NATO airstrikes into Pakistan, the US defence secretary Robert Gates called for better cross-border communication.
Gates also apologised for the accidental killings of three Pakistani troops by NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan at a meeting with the Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at Pentagon, press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
At the crucial strategic talks between the Pakistani delegation and defence and state department officials, Washington pressed Pakistan to take stronger military actions against militant groups sheltering in Pakistan's tribal belt.
The Pakistani delegation were told that continued presence of the terrorist safe havens in the country would undermine the US-led international efforts against extremism in Afghanistan and in the region.
Identical messages were conveyed to the delegation at the state department, at the White House when they met Obama and to Pakistan army chief Gen Kayani when he met defence secretary Gates and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen at the Pentagon.
Officials familiar with the discussions said that US conversations with the Pakistani leaders reflected the Obama Administration's growing sense of frustration about the continued existence of these havens and their reluctance to take action against certain terrorist groups like the Haqqani network.
"We definitely recognise that there are safe havens in other parts of the region, including North Waziristan. And we will be encouraging Pakistan to take steps there as well," state department spokesperson PJ Crowley told reporters.
Crowley said Pakistan's role in the Afghan conflict was the highlight of discussion. "We have assured Pakistan it has an appropriate role in resolving the situation in Afghanistan."
"We do not want to see efforts by any entity to prevent political reconciliation," he said referring to efforts to woe Taliban to accept legitimacy of the Karzai government and the Afghan constitution in exchange for amnesty and a political role.
"This is our fundamental strategy and Pakistan has legitimate role to play in supporting this process", Crowley said.
On talks with Taliban, Crowley said these were at an early stage, but were picking up momentum.
He said no American officials were directly involved in the negotiations, though US and NATO forces had granted Taliban leaders safe passage into Afghanistan for talks.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States 1924-1929