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Tackle terror first for new start, Modi tells Sharif
Tough-talking PM wants Pak to speed up trial in Mumbai attack case
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 27
In his first diplomatic engagement with Islamabad, a tough-talking Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made it firmly clear to Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif that the neighbouring country must abide by its commitment to not allow the misuse of its territory for terror activities against India.

“We expect Pakistan to take necessary steps in the Mumbai terror attack trial under way in Pakistan to ensure speedy progress of the case and the conviction of those responsible,” he told the visiting leader at their nearly 45-minute meeting.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said India’s concerns over terror were clearly articulated during the meeting. The Pakistani leader was told that India wanted peaceful relations with Pakistan but terror and violence should end in order for that to happen.

A source privy to the meeting said Modi was unambiguous in conveying to Sharif that the onus was on Pakistan to tackle the terror machinery operating from its soil if it desired to normalise relations. “In keeping with his image of being a straight-talking politician, Modi has put the ball in Pakistan’s court. In the coming days, Pakistan will have to demonstrate its sincerity to normalise ties,” sources said.

The two leaders firmly shook hands before Modi escorted Sharif to the meeting room at Hyderabad House. The Indian leader was assisted by new External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan, his Principal Secretary Nripen Mishra and other senior officials while the Pakistani Premier was assisted by his Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit, among others.

The Indian side is believed to have also raised the issue of Dawood Ibrahim and last week’s terror attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat but officials were mum on this. On his part, Sharif told Modi that the two governments in Delhi and Islamabad had strong mandate and this could help them in turning a new page in bilateral relations.

In a statement to the media just before his departure, he said it had been decided that the two Foreign Secretaries would meet soon.

However, the Indian Foreign secretary merely stated that the two countries would remain in touch and explore how to move forward. Sharif also extended an invitation to Modi to visit Pakistan which was accepted.

There was no mention of Jammu and Kashmir or any other contentious issue in Sharif's remarks to the media. "I had a constructive meeting with Prime Minister Modi...it was warm and cordial. My government stands ready to discuss all issues between both countries, we owe it to our people to overcome mistrust," he said.

He said the two countries should change the narrative from confrontation to cooperation and avoid engaging in accusations and counter-accusations. "I want to pick up the threads from the Lahore Declaration signed with Prime Minister Vajpayee in 1999."

On economic ties, Modi told Sharif the two countries could immediately move towards full trade normalisation on the basis of the September 2012 roadmap, which also provides for Pakistan granting the MFN status to India. Modi also hoped that India-Pakistan relations would progress in the economic, cultural and political fields in the same manner that India's relations with its other SAARC neighbours had progressed in recent years.





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