NEW YORK/ UNITED NATIONS:
A day before a scheduled meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, the Indian prime minister set the tone for Sunday’s rendezvous.
Manmohan Singh warned on Saturday that Pakistan must stop being ‘the epicentre of terrorism’ if it wants normalisation of ties.
Singh will sit down for breakfast on Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations summit with Nawaz Sharif, who appealed Friday for a ‘new beginning’ with the arch-rival.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Singh said he shared Nawaz’s hopes for better relations but warned that Pakistan must no longer be ‘the epicentre 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,” he said.
Singh said he supported resolving questions over Kashmir but stood firm that the Himalayan territory is ‘an integral part of India’.
“Pakistan must have a clear understanding of the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and that there can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India,” he said
Talking to The Express Tribune after addressing the UN General Assembly, Indian premier Singh said he was looking forward to meeting Nawaz Sharif and hopeful about their interaction.
“I have been eager to meet Nawaz Sharif after his election as the prime minister of Pakistan,” he said. The Indian leader added, however, that the recent ‘unpleasant events’ had made the meeting unsavoury.
A raid by militants on an Indian army base in Kashmir killed 10 people on Thursday. State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the attack ‘aimed at derailing’ the dialogue process between India and Pakistan.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz made plain in his UN speech that he wanted ‘to make a new beginning’ with India, saying the two countries could ‘prosper together’ to benefit the entire South Asian region instead of wasting resources in their arms race.
“We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue,” Nawaz told the assembly. He also urged the UN to ‘remain attentive’ to the Kashmir issue.
The divergence of stands on the Kashmir dispute and India’s insistence on Pakistan ‘dismantling the terror infrastructure’ on its soil before meaningful talks substantiate fears that nothing substantial would come out of Sunday’s tête-à-têtes.
Analysts expect the meeting will address the recent flare-up along the Line of Control (LoC). The skirmishes killed at least eight soldiers from both countries in less than two months. The South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks the violence, says this year’s toll is 44 members of the security forces, up from 17 for all of last year.
While the talks could ease tension between the two nuclear powers, Singh’s scope to manoeuver on concessions to Pakistan is limited, as India heads for elections that must be held by May.
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.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2013.
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