UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Pakistan’s prime minister said Friday he looks forward to meeting with India’s leader to “make a new beginning” in the relationship between the South Asian nuclear rivals.
Nawaz Sharif is set to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N.
It will be their first meeting since Sharif was re-elected in May _ his third term as premier, but his first since he was ousted in a 1999 coup.
Singh, who met with President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday, said he looks forward to meeting Sharif, but tamped down expectations.
“I explained to President Obama the difficulties that we face, given the fact that the epicenter of terror still remains focused in Pakistan,” he said.
Sharif also told the General Assembly that Pakistan and India have wasted massive resources on an arms race.
“Pakistan and India can prosper together, and the entire region would benefit from our cooperation. We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue,” Sharif said.
He took aim at U.S. drone strikes against Islamic militants on Pakistani soil, calling it a violation of the nation’s territorial integrity and one that kills civilians and hurts efforts to combat extremism.
Sharif had conciliatory words for Afghanistan, which accuses Pakistan of supporting Taliban rebels. “We have no favorites” in the neighboring country, Sharif said. He said Pakistan had lost 40,000 lives to terrorism in the past 12 years and would use “all means at our disposal” to fight it.
Sharif’s ambitions to improve relations with India and Afghanistan are driven by the need to fight militancy at home and revive Pakistan’s stricken economy. But an increase in violence in divided Kashmir _ a disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan _ threatens his peace efforts with India.
On Thursday, suspected separatist rebels killed 10 Indian security forces in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir _ an attack that the top elected official there said was aimed at derailing the meeting of Sharif and Singh in New York.
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