ISLAMABAD, OCT 1, 2015 (MAMOSA Report by Irshad Salim) — Underscoring the urgency of resolving the decades-old Kashmir dispute, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday outlined a new four-point peace initiative with India aimed at addressing the causes of tensions between the two countries, and urged New Delhi to desist from creating instability in Pakistan.
“Wisdom dictates that our immediate neighbour refrains from fomenting instability in Pakistan,” Sharif told the 193-nation assembly. While calling for cooperation, not confrontation, he said the two countries should formalize a cease-fire in disputed Kashmir..
PM Sharif also praised Pakistan’s all-weather friend China for its proactive role in promoting peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.
He also praised Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, and said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will spur economic development in the region and beyond.
India has opposed the $46 billion economic corridor financed by China, on grounds it crosses Azad Kashmir.
PM Sharif proposed a new peace initiative with India starting with measures that are the simplest to implement.
These include: that Pakistan and India formalize and respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) and called for increasing the mandate of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan to monitor observance of the ceasefire.
Sharif proposed that both countries “reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances. This is a central element of the UN Charter. Three, steps be taken to demilitarize Kashmir. Four, agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Kashmir’s Siachen Glacier region, the world’s highest battleground.”
The two militaries have been arrayed against each other for years for control of an uninhabited expanse of ice though strategically important to both historical rivals.
He said, “easing of threat perceptions through such peace efforts will make it possible for Pakistan and India to agree on a broad range of measures to address the peril posed by offensive and advanced weapons systems.”
Planned talks between national security advisers from the two neighbors were canceled last month hours before they were due to start, dashing hopes the two might tackle the violence that many fear could one day spark a nuclear showdown.
India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons and have fought three wars since becoming independent countries in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.
In last month’s canceled talks, India wanted to only discuss terrorism-related issues. Pakistan sought a wider agenda as agreed between the two countries PM’s in Ufa — to resolve “all outstanding issues”, including the status of Kashmir.
India had set pre-conditions by insisting on keeping the Kashmir issue out of the agenda and objecting to Pakistan’s interaction with the Hurriyat leaders.
Strains have further grown since nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office last year, despite initial hopes that he and Sharif could make headway on improving ties.
Meanwhile in New York, the meeting everybody wanted did not happen. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for home without meeting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
The two leaders lived in the same hotel, the Waldorf Astoria.
Twice, they shared a room and used the same podium to address a summit meeting but they did not meet or talk.
The two prime ministers, however, did wave and smile at each other.
This happened at the UN peacekeeping summit on Monday afternoon. But even this half-friendly gesture generated another controversy: who blinked first?
“India wins again. The Pakistani prime minister was the first to wave,” claimed the Indian media while the two leaders were still in the meeting room.
“No, he did not,” shouted a journalist in the Pakistani media room at the nearby Roosevelt Hotel.
And then both sides got glued to their TV screens, watching replays in slow motion to claim a point in this game of chicken.
“Does it really matter?” asked Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, after a half-hour “who-was-the-first” debate at an evening news briefing.
“All that matters is that the two leaders waved and smiled at each other,” said Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry.
This is how this “non-event” happened at the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping, hosted jointly by the US, Pakistan and others: Modi walked into the conference hall first and took his seat on the right side of the horseshoe table there.
Sharif followed and took his seat right across Modi on the left side of the table.
Both pretended not to have noticed each other.
Just minutes before the programme began, Sharif waved at Modi. Yes, he was the first to show his positive mindset, persuading the Indian leader to respond.
Modi smiled back and waved too.
After a brief pause, Modi waved again to Sharif, who smiled back and nodded his head.
Now, who was the winner?
Perhaps none or both, but that was not good enough for the media who continued to debate who won, reported Internews.
India’s foreign minister is due to address the General Assembly on Thursday. He’s expected to respond to PM Nawaz’s “Pakistan firm on Kashmir, ready for peace” initiative.