PM, Obama to discuss situations in Pak, Afghanistan on Thursday

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 1 2009, 04:04am hrs
Concerns over the growing instability in Pakistan and the security situation in Afghanistan will figure prominently in the first interaction between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US president Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London on Thursday.

The meeting, which comes close on the heels of Obama unveiling the new Afghan-Pakistan strategy, will also discuss ways to take forward the strategic bilateral relations. Briefing reporters on the Prime Ministers visit, foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said that the two leaders would discuss the world economic crisis as also the bilateral relations and situation in the region, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Responding to questions, Menon said the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan will come up for discussion between Singh and Obama against the backdrop of the new US strategy on the two countries. Referring to the strategic review rolled out by the US last Friday, the Foreign Secretary said India welcomes the will to carry out struggle against terrorism in the two countries.

India has direct interest in the international effort to root out terrorism and it is ready to play a constructive role to defeat terrorism. He said links between Pakistani establishment and terror elements is a cause of concern for India and it would welcome anybodys efforts to cut those links. He said India would convey its views and approach on the issue to its friends.

Menon, however, made it clear that relations between India and Pakistan would be best addressed at the bilateral level and in this regard referred to the progress made in the bilateral ties from 2003 till Mumbai attacks. He said it would be hard for any external hand to replace the bilateral process between India and Pakistan. You need two hands to clap. A third hand will not be helpful, he said.

The foreign secretary contended that India was already playing a constructive role in Afghanistan and was more than willing to work together with the US, adding that he was not concerned about sensitivities of others on this account. I am not an astrolger (to predict how Pakistan would take Indias role in Afghanistan). We will do what is in our national interest, he said.