Sharif sad over LoC killings, wants to meet PM

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday sought to assuage feelings in India by expressing “sadness” over the recent incidents on the Line of Control (LoC) and “loss of precious human lives” that sparked tensions between the two countries.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come under pressure from the BJP not to hold talks with him in New York next month, Sharif said he was looking forward to the meeting in which he intends to discuss steps to further build trust and consolidate the bilateral relationship.

Chairing a meeting at the foreign office to review tensions in the wake of the killing of five Indian soldiers, Sharif said the two countries should take effective steps to restore the ceasefire along the LoC.

However, a statement issued by the foreign office made no reference to Tuesday’s incident in which Indian soldiers were killed by “specialist troops” of the Pakistan Army.

“It was imperative for both India and Pakistan to take effective steps to ensure and restore ceasefire on the LoC,” Sharif said.

Sharif further said it is “incumbent upon the leadership of both sides not to allow the situation to drift and to take steps to improve the atmosphere by engaging constructively with a view to building trust and confidence.”

Relations between the two sides soured this week after the killing of the five Indian soldiers. Indian defence minister A.K. Antony said in Parliament Thursday “specialist troops of the Pakistan Army were involved in the attack” and a “group from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir side crossed the LoC and killed” the Indian soldiers.

Pakistan has already denied its troops were involved in the incident. It has also said two of its soldiers were injured in firing across the LoC.

Foreign ministry officials briefed Sharif about the situation. During the briefing, Sharif emphasised that “existing military-to-military channels could be more optimally utilised to prevent misunderstanding and not allowing the situation to escalate.”

“Pakistan is prepared to discuss steps with India for further strengthening of existing mechanisms both at the political and military levels,” Sharif was quoted as saying in the statement issued by the foreign office.

Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to “persist in its efforts to improve relations with India through a constructive dialogue on all issues.”

Information minister Pervez Rashid, Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security, Tariq Fatimi, special assistant to the premier on foreign affairs, and other senior officials attended the meeting.

The India-Pakistan dialogue process was put on hold after an Indian soldier was beheaded and the mutilated body of another soldier was found following an attack by Pakistani troops along the LoC in January.

After Sharif became premier for a record third time following his PML-N party’s victory in the May 11 general election, he has repeatedly spoken of his desire to improve relations with India.

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