India, Pakistan can jointly combat terror: PM

By Manish Chand, IANS,

On Board Air India One, Sep 24 (IANS) A day before he meets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari here, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday he would will ask Zardari to address the issue of cross-border terror, but underlined that both countries could covert this “common challenge” into an opportunity to jointly combat terrorism.

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“There are enormous challenges ahead for both India and Pakistan. We are to see how peace can be brought and how we can work together,” Manmohan Singh told reporters aboard his special aircraft on his way to New York.

“India-Pakistan relations are about challenges. We face common challenges and we will seek to convert them into opportunities,” the prime minister said when asked about his agenda for talks with Zardari.

Manmohan Singh will meet Zardari at the United Nations headquarters in New York Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly – the first meeting between them since Zardari became the president early this month. This will also be their first meeting since the serial blasts in Delhi and the attack on Marriot Hotel in the heart of Islamabad last week.

“That is among the challenges we have to meet,” the prime minister said when asked whether he will take up the issue of continuing cross-border terrorism with Zardari.

Lauding the “advent of democracy in Pakistan”, the prime minister set a positive tone for the talks, saying: “We are looking forward to working together.”

India concedes that Pakistan, too, is a victim of terrorism but feels strongly that it did not detract from its alleged complicity in terror attacks in India. This is the no- nonsense message on cross-border terrorism Manmohan Singh will convey to Zardari, the widower of former prime minister Benazir Butto who was killed in a suicide attack last year.

Besides cross-border terrorism, increasing Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire violations, infiltration and the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul will figure prominently in Manmohan Singh’s talks with Zardari. The two leaders are also likely to announce the start of cross-border trade through Jammu and Kashmir, expected to begin Oct 1.

Manmohan Singh will remind Zardari of Pakistan’s Jan 6, 2004, commitment not to allow its territory to be used for anti-India terror and take up the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul for which New Delhi has blamed Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), an official source said.

The prime minister will also ask Zaradri to use his influence to stem the flow of cross-border terror which New Delhi feels is being masterminded by the ISI, the source added.

Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Zardari would be an occasion to give a push to the languishing peace process between the two countries and will give New Delhi a sense of Zardari’s position in the evolving civil-military equations in Pakistan.