Claiming that Pakistan is "neither a source nor an epicentre" of terrorism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said the US was in a position to help his country resolve its differences with India, including the "core" issue of Kashmir.
A day ahead of his meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, Sharif contended the US was well placed to resolve outstanding issues because of its growing relationship with India. His insistence on American mediation on Kashmir came despite the rejection of such a move by both the US and India.
Addressing the think tank US Institute of Pakistan (USIP), Sharif said Pakistan is "neither a source of, nor the epicentre of terrorism, as is sometimes alleged".
"In fact, Pakistan itself has been a major victim of terrorism for over a decade," he said. Sharif acknowledged that the greatest challenge to Pakistan comes from terrorism and extremism.
His remarks were an apparent response to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion during a meeting with Obama last month that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism in India's neighbourhood.
Reiterating his call for American mediation to resolve issues with India, Sharif said, "Pakistan appreciates the constructive role the US has historically played in defusing tensions between Pakistan and India.
"With its growing influence in India, the US now has the capacity to do more to help the two sides resolve their core disputes, including Kashmir, and in promoting a culture of cooperation."
Sharif said his government is firmly resolved to end the cycle of violence in Pakistan but this "cannot be done overnight, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against its citizens, without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society back to the mainstream".
Informing the audience about steps taken by his government to establish lasting peace with India, Sharif said the two countries share a common history and a common destiny.
"Our past and our future are intertwined. Pakistan is happy to see the people of India live in peace and security," he said.
"The people of Pakistan want to resolve all our standing issues with India through dialogue and negotiations. We are confident that there are areas where we can make quick progress."
Pakistan would like to pick up the thread "from where we left in 1999", Sharif said, referring to the peace initiative he had started with then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He added he had a "very good meeting" with Singh in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.
"We also wish to put ourselves on the path for normalising trade relations with India. My meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month in New York reflected this desire," he said.
"And I'm confident that we can overcome challenges and find solutions to all issues as long as we stay engaged. In any case, we do not want isolated incidents to interrupt our dialogue," he insisted.
"Our message is simple: future prosperity and economic development in South Asia depends on peace and security in the region."
It is time for the two countries to address their bilateral issues with seriousness to avail of a historic opportunity to devote their energies and resources to development and betterment of their teeming millions, he said.
"Had our two countries not wasted their precious resources in a never-ending arms race, we would not only have avoided the futile conflicts, but also emerged as stable and prosperous nations," he said.
"We would not be found wanting in walking the extra mile. Our dream is to realise the potential of mutually beneficial economic cooperation at the bilateral level as well as the broader regional level under SAARC,” he said.
"Even more promising are the prospects of inter-regional cooperation...There is a huge potential for inter-regional trade, transit and connectivity," he added.