WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Barack Obama have underscored the importance of Pakistan-India dialogue aimed at resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir.

They agreed that improvement of ties between the two South Asian nations would ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

“The two leaders expressed concern over violence along the Line of Control, and noted their support for confidence-building measures and effective mechanisms that are acceptable to both parties,” a joint statement on the talks between the two leaders said.

Pakistan has been pressing for UNMOGIP or any other acceptable mechanism to deal with the ceasefire violations at the de facto border that separates Azad Jammu and Kashmir from India-held part of the state.

On arrival at the White House, President Obama welcomed PM Nawaz and his delegation, saying, “The United States and Pakistan have a longstanding relationship. We work and cooperate on a whole host of issues – not just on security matters, but also on economic and scientific and educational affairs. And we’re looking forward to using this meeting as an opportunity to further deepen the relationship between the United States and Pakistan”.

The two leaders underscored that all sides should continuously act with maximum restraint and work jointly toward strengthening strategic stability in South Asia. They acknowledged the importance of regional balance and stability in South Asia and pursuing increased transparency and uninterrupted dialogue in support of peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes.

The joint statement, covering a wide range of issues, said, “The leaders emphasised the importance of a sustained and resilient dialogue process between the two neighbours aimed at resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful means and working together to address mutual concerns of India and Pakistan regarding terrorism.”

On Wednesday, Pakistan presented three sets of dossiers to US Secretary of State John Kerry on Indian interference in Pakistan and support to subversive activities.

The statement said the prime minister apprised the president about Pakistan’s resolve to take effective action against UN-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and its affiliates, as per its international commitments and obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force.

Acknowledging the ongoing critical counter-terrorism efforts that have driven the robust US-Pakistan security cooperation since September 11, 2001, President Obama and PM Nawaz affirmed that this security relationship has been and will continue to be integral to regional stability.

“Both leaders noted that the stability of South Asia depended on cooperation among all neighbours to suppress all extremist and militant groups operating in the region.”

The two leaders noted with satisfaction that the United States and Pakistan are working closely to counter emerging terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/Da’esh in South Asia, with Nawaz Sharif reiterating Pakistan’s firm resolve to not allow any Da’esh footprint in the country. “The leaders also reiterated their commitment to combat the extremist ideology that propels such groups.

President Obama and Premier Nawaz Sharif discussed the continuing threat of nuclear terrorism, but the reported offer of nuclear deal to limit Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was not mentioned in the statement.

The leaders noted Pakistan’s efforts to improve its strategic trade controls and enhance its engagement with multilateral export control regimes. Recognising the importance of bilateral engagement in the Security, Strategic Stability and Non-Proliferation Working Group, the two leaders noted that both sides will continue to stay engaged to further build on the ongoing discussions in the working group.

The president and prime minister also took note of the robust bilateral defence cooperation between their two countries, including recent military engagements, exercises, and consultations on regional security, and expressed satisfaction with the cooperation achieved in defence relations and reaffirmed that this partnership should endure.

PM Nawaz conveyed appreciation for US security assistance in support of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism, counterinsurgency, counter-narcotics and maritime security operations.

President Obama also commended the gains made by the Pakistani armed forces during Operation Zarb-i-Azb and honoured the sacrifices rendered by them.

The two leaders also reaffirmed that the defence consultative group mechanism has been critical in stimulating defence partnership and resolved to explore new avenues of enhancing defence collaboration.

The statement said President Obama commended Pakistan for hosting and facilitating the first round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in July 2015 and highlighted the opportunity presented by Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate a reconciliation process that would help end insurgent violence in Afghanistan.

Obama and Sharif also issued a joint call for the Taliban to return to peace negotiations with the Afghan government. The two leaders “called on Taliban leaders to enter into direct talks with Kabul and work toward a sustainable peace settlement,” according to the joint statement.

The prime minister stated that Pakistan’s territory will not be used against any other country and noted that this is an obligation of all countries in the region.

Nawaz Sharif came to Washington less than a week after Obama had to abandon his plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan before he leaves office. Mr Obama said 5,500 troops would stay on until 2017, amid a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

PM TERMS TALKS WITH OBAMA ‘POSITIVE, CONSTRUCTIVE’

APP adds: Prime Minister Sharif termed his talks with President Barack Obama “very positive and constructive” and said the two countries agreed on upgrading their ties to an “enduring multi-dimensional partnership.”

Addressing a press conference after his around 120 minutes long meeting with the US President at the White House, the PM said President Obama and he discussed the whole range of issues from bilateral ties to situation in the region and the world at large.

Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s relations with India were the areas where the two sides focused, the PM said.

He said Pakistan and the United States also agreed to continue to make joint efforts for the reconciliation and peace process in Afghanistan, which he added, would bring peace and stability to the region.

Sharif said he shared with the US president Pakistan’s desire to have peaceful relations with India.

He said it was with this intention that he met his Indian counterpart, however regretted that there was no positive response from India.

Sharif said he informed the US President the centrality of the Kashmir dispute in reducing tension between the two countries and for lasting peace.

He said President Obama agreed that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved and tensions along the Line of Control be addressed through pursuing an effective mechanism that stops the heavy loss of lives of Pakistani nationals.

Sharif said his visit to the United States has achieved its desired objectives and presented a detailed overview of his meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and others.

He said the two countries were focussing on six Working Groups under the Strategic Dialogue Process and expressed the hope that it would further bolster their ties.

Sharif said he also briefed the US president about the progress Pakistan has made on the economic front, with positive indicators, duly acknowledged by international rating agencies.

He said the US President appreciated the success Pakistan has achieved in this regard. He said he also shared with the US President the successes against extremism and terrorism through the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb.