Modi, Sharif discuss terrorism; hope for new page in ties 


New Delhi (IANS): A day after taking oath of office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday held wide-ranging discussions here with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on a range of issues including terrorism with a hope to start a new chapter in their strained bilateral ties.

The first meeting between India’s new prime minister and Sharif was held at Hyderabad House here with the two sides agreeing that their foreign secretaries will be in touch to discuss the future roadmap for talks.

Modi clearly articulated India’s concerns on terrorism at the meeting which was described as a “good, substantive and constructive” meeting by Indian officials.

Sharif, who interacted with media before going back to Islamabad, said he had “a very good meeting” with Modi and it was time to open “a new page” in bilateral relationship.

Modi “underlined his concerns on terrorism and expressed the hope that Pakistan will abide by its commitment to not allow its territory or territories controlled by it to be used for terrorist activities against India,” Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told media.

Modi also called for a speedy trial of Pakistanis accused of masterminding the Mumbai terror attack of 2008.

The bilateral relationship between the two countries has been bedevilled by what India views as Pakistan’s hesitation in taking action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Sharif had Monday joined leaders from SAARC countries at the swearing in of Modi as India’s prime minister. He met Modi Tuesday for what was called a “courtesy meeting” by officials.

In a statement which he read out, Sharif said he had underlined that India and Pakistan needed peace to build their economies.

He said his 45-minute meeting with Modi was held in a warm and cordial atmosphere.” He told Modi that he desired to take forward the peace process that he had initiated with then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 until it was derailed by a military coup.

“I intend to pick up the threads of the Lahore peace declaration.”

The Pakistani premier said his own election and Modi’s electoral victory – both “with a clear mandate” – “should be a historic opportunity for both our countries” to meet hopes and aspirations of people on the two sides.

Sharif said he urged Modi “to strive to change confrontation to cooperation” and added his government was “ready to discuss all issues in a spirit of cooperation”.

“After all we owe it to our people … to rid the region of instability and insecurity that has plagued us for decades.

“Accusations and counter-accusations will be counter productive… We must end the legacy of mistrust. Modi warmly reciprocated my sentiments,” Sharif said.

Sujatha Singh termed the meeting between the two prime ministers as “very constructive”.

“Both sides were trying to address each other’s concerns,” she said.

“We want peaceful relations with Pakistan. However, for such relations to proceed it is important that terror and violence is brought to an end,” she said when asked whether the meeting could open a new chapter in bilateral relations.

The foreign secretary said that India’s “concerns on terrorism were clearly articulated”.

Singh did not confirm or deny if Modi had raised with Sharif concerns about involvement of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba in the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat in Afghanistan last week.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has stated that, according to information given to his government by a Western intelligence agency, Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attack on the Indian consulate.

Asked if Modi raised the issue of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim who is said to be living in Pakistan, Singh said she did not want to go into details.

On Kashmir, she said India’s stand was well known and foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet and discuss the way forward. She said Modi has been invited to Pakistan and he had accepted the invitation but no dates had been fixed yet.

Asked about India getting NDMA (non-discriminatory market access) status from Pakistan, she said that there was also discussion on trade.