Sharif Says He Wants Serious Peace Talks with India and to End Arms Race

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Oct. 22, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Pakistan’s lead­er on Tues­day said he is ready to hold sub­stant­ive peace talks with In­dia aimed at resolv­ing the two na­tions’ arms race and oth­er long­stand­ing areas of dis­pute.

Pakistani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif in a speech at the United States In­sti­tute of Peace said im­prov­ing re­la­tions with In­dia “is one of my fa­vor­ite sub­jects.”

“We would like to pick up the threads from where we left off in 1999 and then move for­ward,” Sharif said at the non­par­tis­an fed­er­al in­sti­tu­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

As Pakistani prime min­is­ter in Feb­ru­ary 1999, Sharif joined with then-In­di­an Prime Min­is­ter A. B. Va­jpay­ee in sign­ing the Lahore De­clar­a­tion, which com­mit­ted In­dia and Pakistan to giv­ing each oth­er pri­or no­tice of bal­list­ic-mis­sile tests. It also called for them to hold two-way talks about im­prov­ing mu­tu­al trust on nuc­le­ar-weapon and con­ven­tion­al-mil­it­ary is­sues.

The sign­ing of the Lahore De­clar­a­tion is seen by in­ter­na­tion­al ob­serv­ers as the apex in Pakistan-In­dia nuc­le­ar con­fid­ence-build­ing ef­forts. Three months later Pakistani troops crossed in­to the In­di­an-con­trolled sec­tion of the dis­puted re­gion of Kash­mir. The en­su­ing brief war led to a break­down in bi­lat­er­al re­la­tions and the re­in­vig­or­a­tion of weapons de­vel­op­ment by both coun­tries. Sharif then was toppled in an Oc­to­ber 1999 mil­it­ary coup led by Gen. Per­vez Mush­ar­raf, who did little in his nearly dec­ade in power to re­solve out­stand­ing is­sues with In­dia.

Sharif was sworn in as prime min­is­ter for the third time this past June after his party won the gen­er­al elec­tion in May.

“We’ve … been in a very un­for­tu­nate arms race” for about “66 years,” said Sharif. He has played a sig­ni­fic­ant role in South Asia’s nuc­le­ar-weapons buildup, as he au­thor­ized Pakistan’s first nuc­le­ar ex­plo­sions in 1998. “I be­lieve that we need to get out of this situ­ation.”

For­eign ana­lysts be­lieve In­dia and Pakistan are gradu­ally grow­ing their re­spect­ive nuc­le­ar ar­sen­als, seek­ing to en­hance both their quant­it­ies and cap­ab­il­it­ies. New Del­hi is es­tim­ated to pos­sess between 90 and 110 nuc­le­ar war­heads, while Is­lamabad likely has between 100 and 120, ac­cord­ing to the Stock­holm In­ter­na­tion­al Peace Re­search In­sti­tute’s as­sess­ment. Ob­serv­ers also be­lieve the long­time rivals are boost­ing their fis­sile-ma­ter­i­al pro­duc­tion cap­ab­il­it­ies.

Sharif said if Pakistan and In­dia had “not wasted our re­sources in a nev­er-end­ing arms race,” both na­tions would be pros­per­ous coun­tries by now.

Nuc­le­ar-weapons pro­grams are sig­ni­fic­ant in­vest­ments for coun­tries. Pakistan is es­tim­ated by vari­ous or­gan­iz­a­tions to spend over $2 bil­lion an­nu­ally on its atom­ic-weapons ef­forts.

Sharif main­tained there is do­mest­ic sup­port in­side Pakistan for resolv­ing all out­stand­ing is­sues with In­dia through dia­logue.

“I be­lieve very strongly that both coun­tries of course will have to sit down to­geth­er,” Sharif said, adding that all out­stand­ing is­sues, in­clud­ing the dis­pute over Kash­mir, could be re­solved if they are “ser­i­ously ad­dressed.”

A fi­nal res­ol­u­tion to the ter­rit­ori­al dis­pute over con­trol of Kash­mir will have to be en­dorsed by “the people of all three sides,” said Sharif, re­fer­ring to Pakistan, In­dia and in­sur­gents in Kash­mir.

“Kash­mir of course is a very dif­fi­cult is­sue … but I think by sit­ting and talk­ing we will find some way to re­solve” it, he said.

Sharif met briefly with his In­di­an coun­ter­part, Man­mo­han Singh, in New York City in late Septem­ber, when they agreed to co­oper­ate on lower­ing bi­lat­er­al ten­sions that had sprouted up again this year over sev­er­al leth­al cross-bor­der killings.

“Our mes­sage is simple,” Sharif said on Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton. “Fu­ture prosper­ity and eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment in South Asia de­pends on peace and se­cur­ity in the re­gion, there­fore all of us have a stake in work­ing for these noble ob­ject­ives.”

Sharif is sched­uled to meet on Wed­nes­day with Pres­id­ent Obama at the White House. Earli­er this week, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­know­ledged it had re­stored some mil­it­ary as­sist­ance to Is­lamabad that was frozen in 2011 fol­low­ing dis­agree­ments over how to handle ex­trem­ist groups op­er­at­ing in Pakistan.

What We're Following See More »
Republican Polling Shows Close Race
Roundup: National Polling Remains Inconsistent
10 hours ago

The national polls, once again, tell very different stories: Clinton leads by just one point in the IBD, Rasmussen, and LA Times tracking polls, while she shows a commanding 12 point lead in the ABC news poll and a smaller but sizable five point lead in the CNN poll. The Republican Remington Research Group released a slew of polls showing Trump up in Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina, a tie in Florida, and Clinton leads in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. However, an independent Siena poll shows Clinton up 7 in North Carolina, while a Monmouth poll shows Trump up one in Arizona

Colin Powell to Vote for Clinton
12 hours ago
Clinton Reaching Out to GOP Senators
17 hours ago

If you need a marker for how confident Hillary Clinton is at this point of the race, here's one: CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports "she's been talking to Republican senators, old allies and new, saying that she is willing to work with them and govern."

Trump Admits He’s Behind
17 hours ago
Ron Klain in Line to Be Clinton’s Chief of Staff?
17 hours ago

Sources tell CNN that longtime Democratic operative Ron Klain, who has been Vice President Biden's chief of staff, is "high on the list of prospects" to be chief of staff in a Clinton White House. "John Podesta, the campaign chairman, has signaled his interest in joining the Cabinet, perhaps as Energy secretary."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.