Pakistan a victim, not epicentre of terrorism: Sharif

Washington, Oct 22 (IANS) Claiming that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Tuesday said that his country was not an "epicentre of terrorism" as asserted by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The greatest challenge to a democratic Pakistan is terrorism and extremism but "Pakistan is neither a source of, nor the epicentre of terrorism as is sometimes alleged," he said in an address to the US Institute of Peace ahead of his meeting Wednesday with President Barack Obama.

Pakistan was "rather a victim of the scourge", Sharif said asserting: "My government is firmly committed to ending cycle of violence in Pakistan."

"We want to transform our relations with friends around the world, as well as our immediate neighbours," he said.

During his meeting last month with Sharif in New York as also in his address to the UN general assembly, Manmohan Singh had served a stern warning to India's neighbour to shun terrorism to make peace.

Reasserting what he had told Obama at his Sep 27 summit about Pakistan being the "epicentre of terrorism", Manmohan Singh told world leaders that little progress could be expected in peace talks with Islamabad without a shut down of Pakistan's "terrorist machinery".

Besides asking US to "do more" to help Pakistan-India to "resolve their disputes, including Kashmir", Sharif also sought from Washington what he called "a non-discriminatory approach in fields like civil nuclear cooperation".

Without referring to the landmark India-US nuclear deal, he said "we would hope for 'a non-discriminatory approach in fields like civil nuclear cooperation" as he asked US to help in developing Pakistan economy, not only through aid but by promoting trade.

Contrary to the popular perception, Pakistan-US relations have stood the test of time, said Sharif but added the relations should be based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

On Afghanistan, Sharif said: "We strongly support an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process" and had "no favourites in Afghanistan".

"We fully believe that a peaceful, stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan's vital interest," he said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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