April 29, 2015 / 9:58 AM / 4 years ago

India jilts Pakistan on push for better ties - Nawaz Sharif

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - India has failed to respond to Pakistan’s desire for good relations, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, in rare rebuke of a neighbour with which he has promised to mend ties.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif walks past his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (foreground) during the opening session of 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Narendra Shrestha/Pool/Files

Sharif made improving relations with India a priority when he swept to power for a third time in a 2013 election, raising hopes that a Pakistani civilian government would finally wrest control of foreign policy from the powerful military.

The nuclear-armed neighbours’ top diplomats met in Pakistan last month, after at least a dozen people were killed in a series of exchanges of fire along their disputed border, but there has been little sign of progress in ties.

“Our desire for good neighbourly relations with India has not been reciprocated,” Sharif told the Saudi Gazette in an interview during a recent visit that was published in Pakistani newspapers on Wednesday.

The neighbours have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part.

Sharif said his acceptance of an invitation last May to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration was “an exceptional decision”.

But months later, India withdrew from talks after Pakistan’s ambassador in India met Indian Kashmiri separatist politicians.

Sharif said that was a “frivolous pretext”.

“There is no sign of India desiring resumption of dialogue with us,” he said.

Pakistan’s military, which has ruled for about half of its history since 1947, traditionally sees relations with India as its of responsibility, even during civilian rule.

Sharif’s aim to improve ties with India was widely seen as cause of friction with the army, though tension has eased since last year when the coup-prone military helped calm anti-government protests.

A government insider said at the time Sharif would stay in power but had to “share space” with the army on issues such as relations with India and security.

Sharif said Pakistan was ready for “constructive dialogue for negotiated settlement of all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”.

India says Pakistan arms militants fighting in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan denies that saying it offers political support to Kashmiris facing rights abuses at the hands of India’s army.

India was angered this month when a Pakistani court freed on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was accused of plotting a 2008 assault on the Indian city of Mumbai. India said the release “reinforced the perception that Pakistan has a dual policy on dealing with terrorists”.

Writing By Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Robert Birsel

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