Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the audience during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on 28 September. Timothy Clary/AFP  (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the audience during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on 28 September. Timothy Clary/AFP )
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the audience during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on 28 September. Timothy Clary/AFP
(Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the audience during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on 28 September. Timothy Clary/AFP )

Manmohan Singh at UN: Pakistan should dismantle terror machinery

In UN address, Manmohan Singh calls for zero tolerance towards ‘states sheltering, arming, training or financing terrorists’

New Delhi: Just a day before meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday named Pakistan as the “epicentre of terrorism in South Asia" and called for zero tolerance towards “states sheltering, arming, training or financing terrorists".

Addressing the 68th UN General Assembly session at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Saturday, Singh demanded that “terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down".

Singh is due to meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for breakfast on Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations summit.

“Terrorism remains a grave threat to security and stability everywhere and extracts a heavy toll of innocent lives around the world. From Africa to Asia, we have seen several manifestations of this menace in the last few days alone. 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," Singh said in his speech.

Referring to Sharif’s speech at the UN General Assembly on Friday, Singh recalled that the Pakistan premier had spoken of “making a new beginning".

“I reciprocate his sentiments and am looking forward to meeting him tomorrow (Sunday). India is committed sincerely to resolving all issues with Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through bilateral dialogue on the basis of the Shimla Agreement. However, for progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilized for aiding and abetting terrorism directed against India. It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down," the Indian prime minister said, just days after twin attacks in Jammu and Kashmir blamed on Islamist militants that claimed 10 lives, including that of several police and army personnel.

Referring to the Kashmir dispute that has bedevilled India-Pakistan since independence, Singh said: “There must be 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." India and Pakistan both claim the disputed region in its entirety but administer it in parts. India accuses Pakistan of fomenting an Islamist insurgency in Indian Kashmir besides supporting, arming and training Islamist militant groups blamed for terrorist attacks in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attack.

“It was, I think, a strong statement but made in a dignified way by the prime minister," said security analyst C.U. Bhaskar. Singh linked terrorist attacks in Asia and Africa, that Bhaskar said was a reference to the 21 September Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya blamed on the Al-Qaeda linked Al Shabaab group.

“I think the prime minister touched on all the relevant points that make up India’s official position—that the Kashmir dispute should be sorted out bilaterally, that Pakistan should not use its territory for terrorist attacks against India. I think this is what he will say to the Pakistan Prime Minister when he meets him tomorrow (Sunday)," Bhaskar said.

In his comments to the UN General Assembly on Friday, Sharif, in a reference to Kashmir and alleged Indian human rights violations, had said that “the suffering of the people cannot be brushed under the carpet, because of power politics".

According to media reports, Sharif also said that the “issue of Jammu and Kashmir was presented to the Security Council in January 1948; and yet the issue remains unresolved after nearly seven decades".

“We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue. I am looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Singh here in New York to make a new beginning," said Sharif. “We have a solid basis to do that. We can build on the Lahore Accord signed in 1999, which contained a road map for the resolution of our differences through peaceful negotiations," he was quoted as saying. “I am committed to working for a peaceful and economically prosperous region. This is what our people want and this is what I have long aspired for," he added.

The meeting between Singh and Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session is expected to initiate the bilateral peace process that has been stalled after the killing of five Indian soldiers along the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir on 6 August. The talks that were restarted in February 2011, after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, had made substantial progress, promoting economic linkages between the two countries. But an attack along the border in January when two Indian soldiers were beheaded reportedly by Pakistani troops and the second incident on 6 August stalled the dialogue process.

In his speech, Singh also called for a reform of the UN Security Council. “The UN Security Council must be reformed and restructured to reflect current political realities. More developing countries should be included as both permanent and non-permanent members," Singh said. India along with Brazil, Germany and Japan have been campaigning for permanent seats in a reformed UN Security Council.

With more than one billion people living in abject poverty globally, Singh emphasized the need for “inclusive growth" and said poverty alleviation should be a top priority for the international community. “The problems of over a billion people living in abject poverty around the world need to be attacked more directly," Singh said. “This priority should anchor the post-2015 Development Agenda, which should be shaped by the member states so that it enjoys the broadest possible support and acceptance," Singh told international leaders.

The prime minister also pitched for a political settlement to the Syrian crisis, saying there is no military solution to the lethal conflict that threatens regional stability.

Singh endorsed efforts by the US and Russia to bring Syria’s chemical stockpiles under the international watch and eventually destroy the weapons. He called for the holding of a multilateral conference on the conflict as quickly as possible.

“There is no military solution to this conflict. We must intensify efforts to end the conflict and seek a political settlement," he said. “The increasingly lethal conflict in Syria is not only a tragedy for the people of Syria, but also threatens stability and security in the region and beyond," he added.

Singh also called for “time-bound, non-discriminatory, phased and verifiable" universal nuclear disarmament.

PTI contributed to this story.

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