WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought to strengthen their countries’ fragile relationship with a two-hour Oval Office meeting Wednesday that touched on sensitive subjects, including U.S. drone strikes, Afghanistan’s future and the security of Islamabad’s growing nuclear arsenal.
In their first face-to-face meeting, the leaders said they emphasized mutual efforts to stabilize Pakistan’s economy and deal with terrorism and other security threats.
Although Sharif’s government is expected to be less pro-American than its predecessor, it badly needs American help in strengthening its economy and bolstering its infrastructure, including its weak energy sector.
Pakistan also fears that an abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014 in Afghanistan could destabilize that country’s government, sending waves of refugees across the border into Pakistan and potentially increasing the influence of neighboring states.
During a brief appearance with Obama, Sharif, who was elected in June, said he had raised the issue of drone strikes with the president, “emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.”
U.S. officials have said they are reducing, but not ending, the use of armed drones.