President Barack Obama on Sunday made it clear that the United States “cannot impose” itself on Indo-Pak relations and called for a “military response” in a "significant ongoing way” against those who perpetrated terror attacks in Mumbai and New York.

Mr. Obama avoided any reference to Kashmir but, endorsing India’s stand, said that less contentious issues should be taken up first in an Indo-Pak dialogue process.

India has been persistently suggesting to Pakistan that less contentious issues could be taken up for bilateral talks before the two countries move on to discussing thorny issues like Kashmir.

Interacting with students of St Xaviers College here in a typical U.S. town-hall style meeting for nearly an hour, Mr. Obama expressed hope that over time, trust develops between India and Pakistan and dialogue begins perhaps on “less controversial issues building upto more controversial issues“.

He said the progress made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism was not quick as “we would like” and asserted that they were working with Islamabad to eradicate extremism which is a “cancer” that has the potential to engulf the entire country.

“There are going to be some elements in that are affiliated to the Taliban, that are also affiliated to the al-Qaeda or LeT. These are the organisations, these extremists, they are irreconcilable. They will be there and there will need to be a military response to those who would perpetrate the kind of violence that we saw here in Mumbai in a significant, ongoing way or the kind of one we saw in 9/11 in New york city,” he said.

Mr. Obama also observed that it would surprise Indians when he says this that it is in India’s interest that Pakistan remains “peaceful, stable and prosperous” and that the US will work with Islamabad to reject extremism which is a “cancer” which threatens to engulf it.

The U.S. President made these comments when a girl student asked why Pakistan was not being declared a terrorist state by the U.S. Mr. Obama reacted that it was a good question and said, “I must admit that I was expecting it“.

“India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side, this will not happen tomorrow but needs to be the ultimate goal. The US can be a partner but cannot impose this process. India and Pakistan have their own understanding,” he said.

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