UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on Wednesday for cooperation, not confrontation, with on-and-off foe India and said the two nuclear-armed countries should formalize a ceasefire in disputed Kashmir.
In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Sharif said ceasefire violations in Kashmir were intensifying, causing civilian deaths, including of women and children.
“Wisdom dictates that our immediate neighbor refrains from fomenting instability in Pakistan,” he told the 193-nation assembly. “The two countries should address and resolve the causes of tension and take all possible measures to avert further escalation.”
India issued a swift rebuttal, accusing Pakistan of claiming to be the primary victim of terrorism while “in truth, it is actually a victim of its own policy of breeding and sponsoring terrorists”.
Sharif said he was proposing a new four-point peace initiative with India, starting with measures that are the simplest to implement.
“One, we propose that Pakistan and India formalize and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir,” Sharif said, referring to the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan. He called for an expansion of the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan to monitor the ceasefire.
The Pakistani prime minister proposed that his country and India reaffirm that they will not resort to force under any circumstances and that steps be taken to demilitarize Kashmir.
He also called for an agreement on an unconditional mutual withdrawal of forces from Kashmir’s Siachen Glacier region, the world’s highest battleground, where 10,000 to 20,000 Indian and Pakistani troops have faced off against each other since 1984.
“An 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,” Sharif said.
Planned talks between national security advisers from the 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 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.
Sharif, elected in 2013, promised to improve relations with India. But since then domestic troubles have forced him to cede more control over foreign and security policy to Pakistan’s more hawkish military.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a hard line with Pakistan, insisting he is unwilling to discuss other issues unless Pakistan admits its role in terror attacks in India.In last month’s canceled talks, India wanted to only discuss terrorism-related issues. Pakistan sought a wider agenda, including the status of Kashmir.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs made it clear that Sharif’s proposal was a non-starter. “To de-militarize Kashmir is not the answer,” ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a tweet. “To de-terrorize Pakistan is.”
(This version of the story corrects Sharif’s title in seventh paragraph)
Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Nick Macfie