NEW DELHI: US defence chief Leon Panetta acknowledged Wednesday that India and the United States had “often deep” differences with Pakistan but said Washington and New Delhi needed to work to overcome them.
“Pakistan is a complicated relationship for both of our countries but one that we must work to improve,” he was to say in a speech in New Delhi where he is meeting the country’s leaders to discuss China and Afghanistan.
“India and the United States will need to continue to engage Pakistan, overcoming our respective – and often deep – differences with Pakistan to make all of South Asia peaceful and prosperous,” he added, according to prepared comments released ahead of the address.
Panetta welcomed steps taken by India and Pakistan to normalise their trade relations, a new focus by the neighbours who are hoping greater commerce can pull them together.
Pakistan has promised to let more Indian imports in by year-end and they opened a second trading post in April along their heavily militarised border.
India has said it is ready to end a ban on investment from Pakistan and the countries are planning to allow multiple-entry business visas to spur exchanges – a key demand by company executives.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, while US-Pakistan relations have often been strained by Washington’s efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.
Panetta is pressing Pakistan to open its border to Nato supply convoys, which Islamabad has blocked since a US air strike in November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The United States has had to rely since then on a more costly, cumbersome route to the north through Central Asia. AFP