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Discussing Indo-Pak ties on Clinton's agenda

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
July 16, 2009 10:49 IST
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Given the current geo-political situation in South Asia, a top Barack Obama administration official on Thursday confirmed that Pakistan will figure in talks when United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Indian leaders, during her upcoming visit to India.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake appreciated the recent meetings between the leaders of India and Pakistan and identified it as a positive development.

"I am sure that Pakistan will be a subject of discussion during the meetings," Blake told reporters. But Blake said there has already been quite a lot of dialogue between India and Pakistan, including the recent meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

The two sides also have had meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where the Non-Aligned Summit is underway. "The foreign secretaries of both sides met on Tuesday, I believe. And I think the prime ministers are scheduled to meet on Thursday. So I think there is already good dialogue underway and certainly we welcome that," Blake said.

He said from these meetings, the US would like to see greater understanding and progress, particularly on the issue of Pakistan moving forward with the prosecution of those responsible for the terror attack on Mumbai last year.

"There are some early indications in the Pakistani press that the chargesheets are going to be filed as early as next week on that, which certainly would be a positive step forward," he said.

Blake said that Clinton's trip is focused on India, to highlight the new strategic partnership and people-to-people ties, and by not going to Pakistan on this trip, she is not trying to send any signal at all. "But that doesn't mean that we attach any less importance to Pakistan and Afghanistan. There's already been extensive high level engagement between the US and the leaders of both of those countries," he said when asked why Clinton is not going to Pakistan.

At a different event later in the day, Clinton announced that she would be going to Pakistan in the fall. US President Barack Obama recently hosted a trilateral summit with his counterparts from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"So we are not trying to send any signal at all, except at this stage to talk about our enhanced relationship with India. And I know that the Secretary looks forward to an early opportunity to get out to both Afghanistan and Pakistan," Blake said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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