UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP/REUTERS) - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday ahead of rare talks with his Pakistani counterpart that the rival neighbouring state must not aid cross-border terrorist attacks.
"For progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and areas under its control are not utilised for aiding and abetting terrorism directed against India," Dr Singh told the United Nations General Assembly.
Setting the stage for a tense meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, Dr Singh told the UN on Saturday that neighbouring Pakistan is the “epicentre of terrorism in our region".
Dr Singh and Mr Sharif are set to meet on Sunday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, amid heightened tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir sparked by series of fatal clashes on their de facto Himalayan border.
“State-sponsored cross-border terrorism is of particular concern to India, also on account of the fact that the epicentre of terrorism in our region is located in our neighbourhood in Pakistan,” Dr Singh said in his address to the annual assembly.
Mr Sharif made plain in his UN speech on Friday 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,” Mr Sharif told the assembly.
He also urged the United Nations to “remain attentive” to the Kashmir issue.
Analysts expect Sunday’s meeting will address a series of fatal clashes along the so-called Line of Control dividing the Himalayan region between India and Pakistan, which followed a pact by the two nations to resume stalled talks to strengthen ties.
The clashes have 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 manoeuvre on concessions to Pakistan is limited, as India heads for elections that must be held by May.
Dr Singh said India wanted to resolve all problems with Pakistan, including the Kashmir dispute, through dialogue.
“However, for progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding and abetting terrorism directed against India,” he said.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since becoming independent from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
India has long accused Pakistan of supporting the militants fighting Indian rule in an insurgency in its part of Muslim-majority Kashmir since 1989. Pakistan denies this.
Dr Singh said Pakistan must have “a clear understanding of the fact 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.”