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Indo-Pak friendly ties to benefit region: Singh

04 January, 2014

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that friendly relations between India and Pakistan are in the benefit of the region and both the countries should step forward in normalising the volatile ties. He said that India and Pakistan were near an agreement on the Kashmir issue during the Musharraf era.

Manmohan Singh announced he would step down after nearly 10 years in office, setting the scene for a polarising clash between personalities and ideologies in polls due within months.The world's largest democracy is likely to hold a general election – almost certainly the biggest such exercise ever – in April or May. It will pit Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India's first political family against Narendra Modi, a controversial Hindu nationalist opposition candidate.

Singh, 81, told reporters in Delhi that Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all led India, had "outstanding credentials" to "outstanding credentials" to become the next prime minister and leader of the Congress Party.

He said if Modi was elected, it would be "disastrous" for the country.Congress, which has led coalition governments since ousting the Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in 2004, is expected to break with the tradition of not announcing a candidate before polls to name Gandhi later this month.

In a prepared speech, Singh listed his government's achievements, though admitted its inability to contain inflation or generate enough jobs. Singh said the poverty ratio in India had fallen steeply to 21.9 percent in 2012 from 37.2 percent in 2004 and that initiatives including a new right to information law had improved public life.

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