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US applauds Modi-Sharif meeting but ‘cautiously hopeful’

Washington (PTI): Applauding the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, the US has said it was ”cautiously hopeful” about the improvement in the ties between the two neighbours.

“We are cautiously hopeful that that (Modi-Sharif meeting) 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 said when asked about the meeting between the two South Asian leaders in Delhi.

Responding to a question, the official said the Obama 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 said the White House has seen a constructive tone set from the very beginning by Modi and by Sharif, who was one of the first leaders to speak to the Indian Prime Minister after his victory in the elections.

“He traveled 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 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 official said.

Meanwhile, the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki 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,” Psaki told reporters.

“We continue to welcome any and all steps India and Pakistan take to strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation,” she added.

“We applaud 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. So we certainly support and applaud the news of the weekend,” Psaki said.

Modi, who was sworn-in as India’s 15th Prime Minister yesterday, voiced concerns over terrorism originating from Pakistan in his 45-minute meeting with Sharif.

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