Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 10:57
India urges Pakistan to rein in militants
By Nirmala Ganapathy, The Straits Times/ANN

 India urges Pakistan to rein in militants
India's President Pranab Mukherjee (left) gestures to Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before their meeting at the presidential palace in New Delhi May 27, 2014. (Photo / Reuters)

NEW DELHI  - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to ensure that no militant groups can launch attacks against India from Pakistani soil, in the highest-level meeting between the two countries.

Modi also wanted a speedy trial for those accused of taking part in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Ties between the nuclear- armed neighbours have been hit by border skirmishes and terror attacks that India has blamed on Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who called yesterday's talks "constructive", said: "We want peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan. However, for such relations to proceed, it is important that terror and violence be brought to an end."

He added: "PM (Modi) underlined that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to prevent its territory from being used for terror."

Sharif, speaking to reporters, also called the talks "constructive" and said his country was ready to discuss all issues and "change confrontation into cooperation".

The two prime ministers smiled and shook hands for the media before heading in for talks that lasted 50 minutes, longer than scheduled. They also discussed how to improve trade ties.

The Mumbai terror attacks disrupted a peace process, under which the two countries discussed contentious issues such as the Kashmir dispute and also economic cooperation among others. Though the talks resumed in 2011, the momentum was lost.

Sharif, whose visit was criticised by hardline elements in his country, said in a television interview that he hoped it "could help turn a page in our relations" and "remove fears, mistrust and misgivings about each other".

While Modi rode to power on the back of a decisive mandate, his room for manoeuvre is seen to be limited given the spectre of terrorism looming over ties with Pakistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who also met Modi yesterday, caused ripples on Monday when he blamed the Pakistan- based terror outfit Lashkar-e- Taiba for last week's attack on the Indian consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat.

Still, analysts see Sharif's visit as positive because it helped restore high-level contacts between the two countries. In a rare diplomatic gesture, Modi had invited Sharif and other regional leaders to attend his swearing- in ceremony on Monday.

"I would characterise Sharif's visit as positive because it established high-level political contact and a comfort level (between the leaders)," said strategic analyst C Uday Bhaskar. South Asia foreign policy specialist SD Muni said the meeting was meant to "establish personal chemistry".

"I think talks have gone in a set pattern. I don't see anything out of the box in this or any attempt to break new ground. He (Sharif) must be complimented for his decision to come to India," he added.

Even before their meeting, the two leaders appeared to have struck up some rapport.

In a tweet on Monday evening, Modi said Sharif told him he visits his mother once a week.

Sharif and his mother were both very touched when they saw on television pictures of Modi's mother offering her son sweets after his election victory. Sharif said his mother became very emotional, Modi wrote.