Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif offers India a 'new beginning'
28 September, 2013
NEW YORK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that he was looking forward to the chance to launch "a new beginning" with India.
Speaking ahead of a landmark meeting with his Indian counterpart, the prime minister said Pakistan and India have wasted "massive resources" on a nuclear arms race. Despite clashes in disputed Kashmir this week, Nawaz and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to hold a break-the-ice meeting today (Saturday) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. It will be the first talks between leaders of the two nations for three years.
"Our two countries have wasted massive resources in an arms race," Nawaz said in his speech to the assembly. Both sides have spent huge amounts on developing a nuclear bomb over the past three decades. "We could have used those resources for the economic well-being of our people," he added. "We still have that opportunity. Pakistan and India can prosper together; and the entire region would benefit from our cooperation." Nawaz said: "We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue."
The prime minister said he was looking forward to the chance "to make a new beginning" and added "we have a solid basis to do that." Nawaz said Pakistan and India must build on a 1999 accord which called for the resolution of all differences through negotiations. "I am committed to working for a peaceful and economically prosperous region. This is what our people want and this is what I have long aspired for," Nawaz said.
The prime minister Nawaz for an end to drone strikes on Pakistani soil in an address to the UN General Assembly and underscored Islamabad's commitment to regional peace as well as the need for realisation of the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self-determination. In his wide-ranging address, which received a warm round of applause, the prime minister said he looks forward to meeting his Indian counterpart this weekend to make a "new beginning" towards peace in South Asia.
Pakistan, he said, has suffered grievously in the face of terrorism and is firmly opposed to all forms and manifestations of terror and would also explore dialogue to end militancy. But he underlined that the dialogue should not be seen as a tool of appeasement. He also told the 193-member forum that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power and qualifies for access to civilian nuclear technology. Nawaz also reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to a stable Afghanistan. "To save the world from the scourge of war, we have to continue to strive for a fair and just international order, based on rule of law. Festering disputes must be resolved. In this regard, the United Nations has to play a critical role," he stated.
"The United Nations must continue to remain attentive to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the full realisation of the right to self-determination of its people," he emphasised, reminding the world that suffering of the people cannot be brushed under the carpet, because of power politics." In this respect, he reiterated his call on the international community to give an opportunity to the Kashmiris to decide their future peacefully, in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The issue of Jammu and Kashmir was presented to the Security Council in January 1948; and yet the issue remains unresolved after nearly seven decades, he pointed out. On Islamabad's policy toward the region, he said "I have an aspiration for regional peace and stability. I have shared this vision with leaders in our neighborhood. Shortly after assuming office, I received a message of goodwill from the prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh.I extended an invitation to him to engage with us to address all outstanding issues between our two countries. Prime Minister Singh's response was positive."