President Obama, PM Singh Talk Kashmir, Outsourcing


NEW DELHI – President Barack Obama said Monday that he was ready to play "any role" requested by India and Pakistan to foster peace between them as he moved delicately to address tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

On the third and final day of his trip to India, Obama said that while both India and Pakistan have an interest in reducing tensions in the region, the U.S. "cannot impose a solution to these problems."

"We are happy to play any role the parties think is appropriate," Obama said at a joint news conference with India's Prime Minister Manmoham Singh.

Muslim-dominated Pakistan and Hindu-majority India have gone to war and still hold deep suspicions. Indian officials accuse Pakistan's intelligence service of helping orchestrate the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and say Islamabad has not done enough to crack down on the Pakistan-based extremists held responsible.

Pakistan views India's ties with the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan as an effort by its old rival to encircle it.

Obama treaded carefully when asked about what role the U.S. could play in resolving India and Pakistan's long-standing dispute over Kashmir, a Himalayan region where rebels have sought independence from India or incorporation with Pakistan. The president quickly sought to broaden his answer, saying a reduction in tensions would not only benefit the region, but also the security of the U.S.

Kashmir has been the main source of friction between the nuclear-armed neighbors since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistan has frequently sought outside intervention to resolve it but India vehemently opposes such involvement, and the United States has traditionally stayed above the fray. Obama declined to veer from that stance.