India, Pakistan set to open new page in ties

May 28, 2014 - 1:23:37 am
Indian Premier Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif prior to a meeting in New Delhi yesterday. RIGHT: Nawaz Sharif waves next to chief cleric Syed Ahmed Bukhari (second left) during his visit to Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi. 

New Delhi: A day after taking oath of office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday held wide-ranging discussions here with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on a range of issues including terrorism with a hope to start a new chapter in their strained bilateral ties.

The first meeting between India’s new prime minister and Sharif was held at Hyderabad House here with the two sides agreeing that their foreign secretaries will be in touch to discuss the future roadmap for talks.

Modi clearly articulated India’s concerns on terrorism at the meeting which was described as a “good, substantive and constructive” meeting by Indian officials.

Sharif, who interacted with media before going back to Islamabad, said he had “a very good meeting” with Modi and it was time to open “a new page” in bilateral relationship.

Modi “underlined his concerns on terrorism and expressed the hope that Pakistan will abide by its commitment not to allow its territory or territories controlled by it to be used for terrorist activities against India,” Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told media.

Modi also called for a speedy trial of Pakistanis accused of masterminding the Mumbai terror attack of 2008.

The bilateral relationship between the two countries has been bedevilled by what India views as Pakistan’s hesitation in taking action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Sharif had on Monday joined leaders from Saarc countries at the swearing in of Modi as India’s prime minister. He met Modi yesterday for what was called a “courtesy meeting” by officials.

In a statement which he read out, Sharif said he had underlined that India and Pakistan needed peace to build their economies.

He said his 45-minute meeting with Modi was held in a warm and cordial atmosphere.” He told Modi that he desired to take forward the peace process that he had initiated with then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 until it was derailed by a military coup.

“I intend to pick up the threads of the Lahore peace declaration.”

The Pakistani premier said his own election and Modi’s electoral victory — both “with a clear mandate” — “should be a historic opportunity for both our countries” to meet hopes and aspirations of people on the two sides. 

Sharif said he urged Modi “to strive to change confrontation to cooperation” and added his government was “ready to discuss all issues in a spirit of cooperation”.

“After all we owe it to our people ... to rid the region of instability and insecurity that has plagued us for decades.

“Accusations and counter-accusations will be counter productive... We must end the legacy of mistrust. Modi warmly reciprocated my sentiments,” Sharif said.

Sujatha Singh termed the meeting between the two prime ministers as “very constructive”.

“Both sides were trying to address each other’s concerns,” she said.

“We want peaceful relations with Pakistan. However, for such relations to proceed it is important that terror and violence is brought to an end,” she said when asked whether the meeting could open a new chapter in bilateral relations.

The foreign secretary said that India’s “concerns on terrorism were clearly articulated”. 

Singh did not confirm or deny if Modi had raised with Sharif concerns about involvement of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba in the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat in Afghanistan last week.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has stated that, according to information given to his government by a Western intelligence agency, Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attack on the Indian consulate.IANS

Team Modi takes charge, promises clean governance

New Delhi: A new Indian government took charge yesterday with most ministers visiting the offices of their allotted portfolios, some even to two-three offices, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who began with an early meeting at his South Block office.

One of the first official directives issued by Modi was to ensure best treatment for those injured in Monday’s Gorakhdham Express rail accident, besides announcing a grant of Rs.200,000 to the families of each of the 25 people killed in the mishap.

“Modi has directed the railway ministry to ensure that the relief operations following the Gorakhdham Express rail accident are carried out smoothly,” an official statement said, adding the injured, numbering some 100, will be given Rs.50,000 each.

Modi himself assumed charge at 8am at his South Block office and held a meeting with his principal secretary, Nripendra Mishra, and other officials in his secretariat. The Prime Minister’s Office fixed 5.50pm as the time for the first cabinet meeting.

Modi then shifted to Hyderabad House for a series of meetings with visiting dignitaries from neighbouring countries who had flown in to witness his inauguration as India’s 15th prime minister at a grand, well-attended event the evening before.

The dignitaries included Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maldives President Abdullah Yameen, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Bangladesh speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.

Soon after taking charge of his finance portfolio, Arun Jaitley said he was only holding additional charge of the third portfolio, defence, and that it would be handed over to a new person once there is a cabinet expansion. Jaitley also holds the portfolio of corporate affairs.

Otherwise, he said the immediate task at hand was to restore the confidence of domestic and overseas investors, besides reviving economic growth that has fallen to its lowest in a decade, containing inflation and repairing public finances.

Jaitley also had a chat at South Block, the office of the defence minister, where he said there was no issue now in the appointment of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next army chief by the previous government during its last days in office. “I believe there should be no controversy about the appointment of any person,” said Jaitley, who will be a member of Modi’s Cabinet Committee on Security, along with Rajnath Singh, given home ministry, and Sushma Swaraj, who will oversee external affairs.

According to sources, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj were to join office Wednesday. There were also murmurs in the corridors of power that some of the alliance partners, not happy with the allotted portfolios, had asked their ministers to wait. Among the other ministers, Ravi Shankar Prasasd had to visit three offices. A lawyer himself, Prasad first visited the office of the law ministry, then Sanchar Bhavan that houses the communications ministry and later to IT department’s Electronics Niketan.

He, too, made an important statement. “For good governance, a good legal regime is very necessary,” he said, adding his government will be investment-friendly, with fair and transparent policy. He also promised to set right the mess in the telecom sector. In the backdrop of the Gorakhdham Express accident, Rail Minister D V Sadanand Gowda’s first remarks covered safety, even as his deputy, Manoj Sinha, visited the spot with his senior cabinet colleague Kalraj Mishra, allotted small enterprises.

Among others who took charge, Ram Vilas Paswan promised to ease the flow of foodgrain at fair price shops and curb inflation, as part of the challenges posed by his consumer affairs ministry, while oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan focused on energy security.IANS