India, Pakistan PMs meet in New York

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India, Pakistan PMs meet in New York

The prime ministers of India and Pakistan are meeting in New York on Sunday morning in a new push for improved relations on the subcontinent.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 29 Sep 2013, 9:25 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:47 PM

Indian premier Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif are meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. It is their first face-to-face since Sharif was re-elected in May.

Sharif calls the meeting a chance for a “new beginning” in relations between South Asia’s nuclear rivals. Singh has reciprocated the goodwill but downplayed expectations for the talks. He says relations can’t improve until Pakistan stops militants launching attacks in India.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars in their 65 years since independence from Britain. Relations have been strained since the 2008 Mumbai attacks and recent attacks in divided Kashmir complicate the latest push for peace.

India warns Pakistan ahead of summit

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned on Saturday that Pakistan must stop being “the epicenter of terrorism” if it wants better ties ahead of his first meeting with Nawaz Sharif.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 28, 2013. - Reuters

Singh will sit down for breakfast on Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations summit with Sharif, Pakistan’s newly elected premier who appealed Friday for a “new beginning” with the historic rival.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Singh said he shared Sharif’s hopes for better relations but warned that Pakistan must no longer be “the epicenter of terrorism in our region” in the wake of another deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

“For progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding or abetting terrorism,” Singh said.

“It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down.”

Singh said he supported resolving questions over Kashmir — which is divided between the South Asian powers and is claimed by both — but stood firm that the Himalayan territory is “an integral part of India.”

“There can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India,” he said.

A raid by militants on an Indian army base in Kashmir killed 10 people on Thursday. Jammu and Kashmir state chief minister Omar Abdullah said the attack “aimed at derailing” dialogue between India and Pakistan.

At the United Nations, Singh called for greater international cooperation against state support for extremism.

“There can be no tolerance for states sheltering, arming, training or financing terrorists,” he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif speaks during the United Nations 68th session of the General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 27, 2013. - Reuters

Sharif has quickly sought to reassure the United States and India after sweeping to power in May with promises to rebuild Pakistan’s troubled economy.

While addressing the UN General Assembly on Friday, Sharif said he was looking for a “substantive and purposeful dialogue” with Singh to offer a chance for “a new beginning” with India.

“Our two countries have wasted massive resources in an arms race,” Sharif said. “We could have used those resources for the economic well-being of our people.”

Sharif also reiterated calls for greater international attention on Kashmir, a longstanding position of Pakistan.

Pakistan followed India in developing nuclear weapons, with late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously saying his country was ready to “eat grass” to have the weapons.

The presence of atomic arms has raised fears over the repercussions of conflict between India and Pakistan — caused either by a major attack inside India or an escalation of conflict over Kashmir.

While Sharif has returned to office, Singh — who turned 81 on Thursday — is seen to be on his way out. He has headed the world’s largest democracy since 2004 and is not expected to lead his Congress Party in next year’s elections.

Singh, who was born in what is now Pakistan before India’s partition at independence in 1947, has supported stable relations with Pakistan but has warned that any substantive improvement in ties requires Islamabad to crack down on virulently militants, some of whom operate openly.

Singh resisted domestic pressure for military retaliation after a 2008 raid on a luxury hotel in Mumbai killed 166 people, but he has repeatedly urged Pakistan to prosecute extremists over the attack.

In a valedictory visit to the White House on Friday to see President Barack Obama, the Indian leader voiced weariness about his decade of dealing with Pakistan.

“The expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent,” Singh told Obama of his meeting with Sharif.

A quiet diplomatic bid a decade ago to reach a comprehensive solution over Kashmir failed, but India and Pakistan have since taken goodwill steps.

Last month, Pakistan freed nearly 340 Indian fishermen who had been detained for mistakenly straying into the neighbouring country’s waters.

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