US applauds Modi-Sharif meeting, says ‘cautiously hopeful’
The United States has applauded the meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, as senior administration officials said they were “cautiously hopeful” about the improvement in the relationship between the two South Asian neighbours.
“We are cautiously hopeful that that (Modi-Sharif) could be a positive indicator, but we’re also mindful that this will be very important to the dynamic going forward,” a senior Obama administration official said on the condition of anonymity.
The official said that the administration is hopeful that the initial indication between both Islamabad and New Delhi is a positive one.
“Sharif responded to the invite in attending the inauguration, the first such visit in many years, and as well, reminiscent of the last time there was significant progress between the two countries when the BJP came to power during Prime Minister Sharif’s previous term as Prime Minister in the late 90s, and they made progress along lines that looked very much like what we have now,” the official said.
The official was referring to the series of peace initiatives launched by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Delhi-Lahore bus initiative being one of them.
Another senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the White House has seen a constructive tone set from the very beginning by both Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif, who was one of the first leaders to speak to the Indian PM after his victory in the elections.
“He travelled to India for the inauguration, was able to see Prime Minister Modi there. We always encourage India and Pakistan to pursue dialogue that can reduce tension.
“We believe that is in the interest of the entire region. And so we’ll continue to encourage that,” the official said.
“So with that new leadership in India, the new leadership in Pakistan, and the new President coming to office in Afghanistan this year, I think we have an opportunity to have that discussion about how all the countries in the region can provide for a greater stability and security.
“And that’s certainly something we’re going to pursue,” the second official added.
Meanwhile, the State Department has applauded the Modi-Sharif meeting.
“We welcome the news of Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to India for Prime Minister Modi’s inauguration and their subsequent bilateral meeting,” Spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
“I would point you to both of their governments on the substance of the meeting between them, but broadly speaking, we continue to welcome any and all steps India and Pakistan take to strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation,” she added.
The U.S. applauds any efforts between India and Pakistan to create economic opportunities for the people of both countries that can contribute to a more secure, stable and prosperous region, Ms. Psaki added.
“So we certainly support and applaud the news of the weekend,” she said in response to a question.
Mr. Modi, who was sworn-in as India’s 15th Prime Minister on Tuesday, voiced concerns over terrorism originating from Pakistan in his 45-minute meeting with Mr. Sharif.