India's new PM meets with leader of rival Pakistan
By Muneeza Naqvi, The Associated Press
NEW DELHI - New Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Pakistan's leader on Tuesday and asked that his country "abide by its commitment" to prevent its territory from being used in terrorism against India and speed up investigations into the 2008 attack in Mumbai.
Modi was meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the leaders of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Mauritius, Bangladesh and Maldives, a day after they attended his inauguration. But all eyes were watching the meeting between Modi and Sharif for signs of a thaw in the relations between the often-hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours.
"The prime minister underlined our concerns related to terror. It was conveyed that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to prevent its territory and territory under its control from being used in terrorism against India," India's Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told reporters.
Sharif also addressed reporters, calling the visit "a historic opportunity for both our countries."
Sharif said as leaders each elected with a popular mandate the two men could succeed in "turning a new page" in the often-hostile relations between their countries. He said that both men shared a common goal of economic development which could not be achieved without "peace and stability in the region."
Modi also asked that Pakistan hasten its investigation into the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai, India's financial hub, in which Pakistani militants killed 166 people, and put its perpetrators on trial, Singh said.
Foreign secretaries of both nations will stay in touch and "explore how to move the relationship forward," Singh added.
The two leaders also discussed increasing trade between their nations. The countries have pushed bilateral trade and increased people-to-people contacts even as the thorny issues of terrorism and the status of the disputed Kashmir region remain unresolved.
On Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told an Indian television channel that the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind last Friday's attack on an Indian consulate in western Afghanistan. Gunmen armed with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the building in Herat, but the diplomatic staff escaped unharmed.
Karzai said he received the information from "a Western intelligence agency."
Lashkar-e-Taiba was also blamed for the Mumbai attack.
On Tuesday, a man who identified himself as a Lashkar-e-Taiba spokesman named Abdullah Ghaznavi denied that the group was responsible for the consulate attack.
"We have nothing to do with any attack in Afghanistan," he told The Associated Press.
Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a solid majority in the 543-member lower house of Parliament, enabling him to set priorities without being constrained by coalition partners.
Modi has picked 45 Cabinet ministers, who were sworn in alongside him. Former BJP President Rajnath Singh was named home minister, former opposition leader Sushma Swaraj is the new foreign minister, and BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley will head the ministries of finance and defence.