September 29, 2013 / 5:01 PM / 4 years ago

India says cross-border peace with Pakistan key to better ties

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, agreed on Sunday that better ties require an effort to restore a cross-border ceasefire after a spate of shootings, a senior Indian official said.

Singh and Sharif met for more than an hour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, amid heightened tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir, sparked by series of fatal clashes on their de facto Himalayan border.

They both expressed a desire to improve ties but agreed that “peace and tranquillity across the LOC (Line of Control) is a precondition,” Indian national security adviser Shivshankar Menon told reporters in New York.

“We need to address the issues that we face today and then we hope to move it forward,” he said.

A series of fatal clashes along the so-called Line of Control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan have killed at least eight soldiers from both countries in less than two months. The South Asia Terrorism Portal, a website that tracks the violence, says this year’s toll is 44 members of the security forces, up from 17 for all of last year.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gestures towards Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) as he takes his seat, during the United Nations General Assembly at the New York Palace hotel in New York September 29, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

In their speeches to the U.N. General Assembly, both leaders said they wanted to improve relations between their countries, which have fought three wars since becoming independent from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

But Singh told the assembly on Saturday that neighbouring Pakistan is the “epicentre of terrorism in our region,” and in talks with Sharif he urged Pakistan to address Indian complaints that Pakistan is the source of cross-border attacks, Menon said.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the United Nations General Assembly at the New York Palace hotel in New York September 29, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting the militants fighting Indian rule in an insurgency in its part of Muslim-majority Kashmir since 1989. Pakistan denies this.

“Both sides wish to see a better India-Pakistan relationship than we have today,” said Menon.

Asked whether he thought Pakistan can bring calm to the frontier in Kashmir, he said: “The only proof will be in the months to come.”

The two leaders accepted invitations to visit each other’s countries, but no dates were set, Menon added.

Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Eric Beech

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