India’s PM to meet Pakistan premier in sign of improved ties

India’s PM to meet Pakistan premier in sign of improved ties
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (above)

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confirmed Wednesday he will meet his Pakistani counterpart this weekend in a major step towards better relations following rising tensions.

Singh said he will hold talks with Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the first such meeting in three years, amid heightened friction over a string of deadly military attacks across their border in disputed Kashmir.

"During my visit to New York, I... look forward to bilateral meetings with the leaders of some of our neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan," Singh said in a statement before leaving for the United States.

Singh will first head to Washington to meet President Barack Obama to try to strengthen economic ties between the two world's largest democracies including on nuclear power, before leaving for New York.

"Over the past decade, our relationship with the United States, which is one of our most important relationships, has transformed into a global strategic partnership," his statement said.

New Delhi and Islamabad have been working behind the scenes in recent weeks to secure a meeting, which was in jeopardy after deadly skirmishes in recent weeks between their militaries. The attacks repeatedly broke a ceasefire in place since 2003 along the de facto border in Kashmir.

The picturesque Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan by the UN-monitored Line of Control (LoC), but is claimed in full by both countries. Two of their three wars have been fought over Kashmir.

The deadly flare-ups followed an ambush in August that killed five Indian soldiers along the LoC. India blamed the Pakistan army for the attack, a charge that Islamabad denied.

Since winning a general election in May, Sharif has been vocal in his desire for better relations with India. Last month he urged both sides to work swiftly to shore up the 10-year ceasefire after India's defence minister hinted at stronger military action along the LoC.

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