Hopes high as Nawaz, Manmohan meet today
29 September, 2013
NEW YORK/ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh today (Sunday) in New York at the hotel where Singh will stay during his US visit.
Singh and Nawaz, who are in New York to attend the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, will be meeting at breakfast, which will be hosted by the Indian prime minister. This will be the last major engagement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his trip to the US. The meeting between the two prime ministers has attained conspicuous significance against the backdrop of tense ties between the two countries. It could break the impasse spreading over two years in the relations of the neighbouring countries.
Nawaz Sharif is viewed as a champion of peace with India and he would make his best efforts to bring about normalcy between the two nuclear countries. Nawaz is seeking to break the impasse spreading over two years in the relations of the neighbouring countries and has called the meeting a chance for a "new beginning," but Singh has tamped down expectations for the talks. Speaking on Friday after a White House meeting with President Barack Obama, Singh said, "The epicentre of terror still remains focused in Pakistan."
Traders in Kashmir are hoping the meeting between the two prime ministers will ease rising tensions that have seen trade across the territory's de facto border grind to a halt. Barter trade across the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Kashmir, began in 2008 as part of peace efforts. Mounting tensions and deadly skirmishes along the heavily militarised LoC in recent months have seen the trade come to a standstill for more than three weeks. Violence flared on August 6 when five Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush Delhi blamed on Pakistan, and on Thursday militants stormed an army base on the Indian side, killing 10.
Mohammad Ismail, the chief of the Trade and Travel Authority in Azad Kashmir, urged the two leaders to try to cool tensions to end the trade impasse, which he said was costing traders millions of rupees. "We're not expecting any major breakthroughs in the talks, but we want them to move the peace process forward," he told AFP. "People-to-people contacts between the two countries should be held so trade may resume." Singh condemned Thursday's "heinous" attack but said it would not deter him as he seeks to resolve problems with Pakistan through dialogue.
On Friday however, he toned down expectations for the meeting, saying Pakistan remained an "epicentre of terrorism". Ejaz Ahmad Mir, vice president of the LoC trade union told AFP: "We appeal to the international community and also the two premiers to ensure that the peace process does not derail. "If it is move forward then the trade can be resumed, but we don't have much hope." The barter arrangement sees goods including rice, jewels, sandals and fruit leaving Azad Kashmir and carpets, shawls, dried fruits, and spices amongst others coming from the Indian side.
At Chakothi border crossing, Mohammad Sadiq Shaikh, one of 800 Pakistani traders, spoke of his anxiety at the halt in business. He has sent potatoes and apples worth up to Rs 4.2 million to Srinagar, but was worried if he would get the goods in exchange from Indian side.