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Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif (left) with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: PIB via AFP
Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif (left) with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: PIB via AFP

Pakistan’s Shahbaz Sharif calls for early resumption of peace talks

Shahbaz Sharif emphasized Pakistan's wish to establish friendly relations with India while meeting PM Manmohan Singh

New Delhi: The chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, called for an early resumption of peace talks between India and Pakistan—stalled for months after tit-for-tat killings of Indian and Pakistani soldiers along their common border—during a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.

Shahbaz Sharif delivered a message of goodwill from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while emphasizing Pakistan’s desire to forge “friendly and cooperative relations with India, in the interest of peace and prosperity of the people of the two countries and of the region", a statement from the Pakistan high commission said.

Shahbaz Sharif is the brother of Nawaz Sharif,

“The chief minister also underscored the importance of resumption of dialogue and peaceful resolution of all issues. The meeting was cordial, constructive and forward looking," the statement said.

Sharif was accompanied by special assistant to the prime minister, Tariq Fatemi, minister of state for commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan and provincial minister for education Rana Mashood Khan and high commissioner Salman Bashir, the statement added. There was no official comment from the Indian side on the meeting.

Talking to reporters later, Sharif said he had a good meeting with Singh. “I am here since morning and had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister. We had a ride on Metro and some other visits. I think (the visit) was very productive and useful," he said.

Sharif dismissed allegations that his government was supporting Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed—who India blames for the 2008 November attack in Mumbai.

“That’s totally garbage. It’s trash. Nothing of that sort. Those institutions are under the control of the government of Pakistan and it is according to the UN norms," he said.

India considers the Jamaat as a cover organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that it blames for planning and executing the Mumbai attack. Saeed is among a list of 40 wanted “fugitives" from India law. The list was handed over to Pakistan in the weeks following the Mumbai attack.

During his two-day stay in India, Sharif will be calling on commerce minister Anand Sharma, visit a super thermal plant in Haryana and witness the signing of an accord between agricultural universities of Ludhiana and Faisalabad.

India and Pakistan have been trying to resume a peace dialogue stalled since the beginning of this year after Indian and Pakistani soldiers were reported killed during patrols along the de-facto line of control border.

According to the Indian government, two Indian soldiers were beheaded by Pakistani troops along the border in January. Tensions spiked by the killing seemed to cool, and following the May elections in Pakistan that brought Nawaz Sharif to power, both sides decided to draw up a calendar for peace talks.

But ties took another dive when five Indian troops were killed in an ambush along the border in August. Persistent violation of a ceasefire in place between India and Pakistan since 2003 has resulted tensions between the two countries remaining high.

Indian Prime Minister Singh, who met Nawaz Sharif in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, agreed that establishing tranquillity along the de-facto border in Kashmir was imperative for the peace process to move forward, and decided to allow top military commanders to meet and discuss ways to lessen border tensions. That meeting has not taken place and official peace talks are yet to resume.

PTI contributed to the story.

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