India PM Narendra Modi presses Pakistan’s Sharif on militants

BBC News, 27 May 2014

The BBC’s Nitin Srivastava in Delhi says the smiles and handshakes between the pair have been “a shock”

India’s
new PM Narendra Modi has urged his Pakistani counterpart to crack down
on militants and speed up the trial of the 2008 Mumbai attacks suspects.

Mr Modi held bilateral talks with Nawaz Sharif on his first day in office.

The Pakistani leader said they should put the “legacy of mistrust” behind them and work for peace and stability.

Mr
Sharif attended Mr Modi’s swearing-in on Monday, amid hopes of a thaw
in relations between the rivals who have fought three wars since
independence.

Mr Modi also “underlined our concerns related to terrorism”, Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said after the talks.

“It
was conveyed that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to prevent its
territory and territory under its control from being used for terrorism
against India.”

Mr Modi is meeting South Asian leaders on Tuesday. Hamid Karzai
of Afghanistan was first

The two sides discussed trade and the “PM said
the two countries could immediately move towards normalising trade
ties”, Ms Singh said, adding that the foreign secretaries would “meet
soon” to carry forward the bilateral agenda.

In a brief
statement, Mr Sharif described the talks as “good and constructive” and
said they were held in “a cordial atmosphere”.

“We agreed that
our meeting in Delhi should be a historic opportunity for both our
countries… This provides us the opportunity of meeting the hopes and
aspirations of our peoples that we will succeed in turning a new page in
our relations,” he said.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have a deep history of mistrust and the BJP advocates a tough stance on Pakistan.

Mr
Modi himself is viewed with suspicion by many in Pakistan because of
the deadly 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat while he was the state’s
chief minister.

Monday’s swearing-in ceremony was held in the forecourt of the presidential
palace in Delhi

But in a surprise move, Mr Modi last week invited Mr Sharif to his inauguration and for bilateral talks.

On
Tuesday, Mr Modi also held bilateral talks with Afghan President Hamid
Karzai, and Ms Singh said the prime minister thanked him for help in
dealing with last week’s attack on an Indian diplomatic mission in
Afghanistan’s Herat province.

In an interview with an Indian TV
channel on Monday, Mr Karzai blamed the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a
militant group based in Pakistan. India has also blamed the group for
Mumbai attacks.

Mr Modi also held bilateral talks with the Sri
Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nepal PM Sushil Koirala and leaders
of Maldives, Bhutan, Mauritius and Bangladesh.

BJP supporters lit fireworks to celebrate Narendra Modi’s inauguration
outside the BJP office in Delhi

Mr Sharif’s
presence at Monday’s historic swearing-in was the first time since India
and Pakistan won freedom from Britain in 1947 that a prime minister
from one state had attended such a ceremony in the other.

Forty-five MPs, including seven women, from Mr Modi’s BJP party and their allies were also sworn in as ministers.

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